The Mallard Duck North America
Wednesday November 10 2010
The green head, yellow bill, and black rump of the Mallard Duck is a familiar sight for many people living in the Northern hemisphere. Nearly 10 million Mallards live in North America with millions more in Eurasia. It is thought to be the most abundant duck in the world today.
The Mallard is a medium size duck measuring 18 to 27 inches in length. During the breeding season the male has a green head, white neck ring, chestnut colored breast, and a gray body. The inner feathers on the wing are a metallic bluish-purple bordered with white. Its bill is yellow with a black tip. The female is a mottled brown with a white tail. Like the male, the feathers on its inner wing are a bluish-purple. The female has a mottled orange and brown bill rather than the distinctive yellow.
During the non-breeding season, the male’s plumage is similar to the females, but it maintains its distinctive yellow bill and chestnut colored breast.
The Mallard Duck’s summer range covers a wide territory. It stretches from Alaska and Quebec, south to northern Mexico and Texas. The Mallard will spend its winters in the warmer climes of the United States, Central America, and the West Indies.
They inhabit most wetlands. They will settle along lakes, ponds, river bends, marshes, estuaries, and even ditches. It is not uncommon to see a family of Mallards, swimming in the lakes and ponds in city parks and playgrounds. If the water is fairly calm, the Mallards will find it.
The Mallard Duck’s courtship starts in the fall. The Males grunt and whistle, swim, pump their heads, and preen in front of the females. The females spur the males on with loud calls and suggestive body movements. The rituals usually occur on the water, but chase flights are not uncommon. By midwinter the pairs have formed. The mated pair migrate together returning to the female’s place of origin.
The nest is usually built on the ground within a hundred yards of water. The depression is lined with soft reeds and grasses. The nest is usually concealed in tall grass or reeds. Once the female lays her eggs, the male abandons her.
The female Mallard’s clutch usually has 8 to 13 eggs. They are incubated for 27 to 28 days. The ducklings are precocial, which means they can swim and feed themselves right after hatching. They stay close to their mother for protection until they fledge at 50 to 60 days.
After the Mallard drakes abandon their mates to the job of raising the young, they fly to a secluded area and undergo their annual molt. The molting of their wing feathers leaves them temporarily flightless. They are no longer displaying their courtship plumage, but a drab “eclipse” plumage is similar to that of a female. It provides better camouflage against predators while their wing feathers grow back. The entire process takes 2 to 3 weeks. The hens go through a similar molt once their ducklings have fledged.
Mallard Ducks are omnivores. They are often seen with their head under water and their tails sticking up in the air as theydabble for their next meal. That meal may be comprised of plant food, invertebrates, fish, or amphibians. They will also graze on land, feeding on grains and small plants.
Mallards fly in small groups or in V shaped flocks. The flock is usually comprised of 10 to 20 members, but the flock can swell to over a hundred. They are swift fliers and excellent swimmers.
The Mallard Ducks are a noisy species. The hen’s call is the quack-quack often associated with ducks. The drake’s call is a reedy quack and during mating season will pierce the air with sharp single and double-noted whistles.
The lifespan of the Mallard duck is 7 to 9 years, but over half die before they reach 2 years of age. They die from predation, accidents, hunting and diseases such as botulism, cholera and viruses.
For more information on Ducks, visit the WIKIPEDIA