Saturday, July 14, 2012
The Mallard Duck is probably the most well known wild duck. The word mallard originated in the early 14th century. Mallard means wild drake or duck. In the old days, mallard likely meant any wild duck.
The range of the Mallard includes North American, Europe, Asia, Central American and the Caribbean. They migrate north to breed and winter in the southern part of their range. Preferred habitats include marshes, ponds, small lakes, bays, tidal flats, mountain lakes and streams.
Mallards are omnivores. They eat water plants, insects, fish, amphibians, land plants, grains, worms, spiders and tiny creatures they obtain by filtering water through the serrations located along the inside edge of their bills. They have a sort of nail at the tip of their beaks which is used to skewer prey.
Mallard males, or drakes, have a distinctive green head trimmed with a white band at the neck. The chest is reddish brown, the sides gray, the back brown and the rump is black. The speculum (a specially colored lustrous area on the bird's wings) is violet-blue bordered by black and white. The drake's bill is yellow to yellowish green in color, and his feet are coral to red.
When he speaks, it is a rather nasal sound something like, "kreep".
The female, or hen, is mottled brown with violet speculum bordered by black and white. She has a black stripe on the side of the head running on either side of the eye. Her feet are orange, her bill is orange with brown splotches.
When she speaks it sounds like the classic, "quack quack".
During the winter, the drake chases a female, impressing her with assorted manley displays. Once he wins her, he stays close by. This keeps other males from making moves on her. Typically, in early spring, they build a nest on a riverbank. The hen incubates the eggs. They hatch in 23-29 days. At this point, the male leaves the scene, his role in the relationship is concluded.
Within 24 hours of hatching the youngsters are led to water to swim and eat insects. The young stay with mom for protection. By the time they are 50-60 days old, the ducklings are independent. Even though they could survive on their own, they don't necessarily leave their mother and siblings. Most Mallards tend to hang out in flocks unless it is breeding season.
Assorted Mallard Facts
- lifespan 5-10 years
- most domesticated ducks are descended from the Mallard
- length (from beak to tail): 20-26 inches
- weight: 2-3 pounds
- wingspan: 32-39 inches
- clutch: 6-14 eggs, cream to greenish in color
- during summer molt the ducks cannot fly, the feathers grow back in time for fall migration