Ducks

Posted on: November 26th, 2012

The Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), probably the best-known and most recognizable of all ducks, is a dabbling duck which breeds throughout the temperate and sub-tropical areas of North America, Europe, Asia, New Zealand (where it is currently the most common duck species), and Australia. It is strongly migratory in the northern parts of its breeding range, and winters farther south. For example, in North America it winters south to Mexico, but also regularly strays into Central America and the Caribbean between September and May.

The Mallard and the Muscovy Duck are believed to be the ancestors of all domestic ducks.

When to see them at UseeWildlife

The Mallard ducks usually start arriving in late November to early December. They are typically seen on cameras 8 and 7 with the majority of spotting occurring on camera 8. They typically stay until around February to March depending on weather conditions.

Description

The Mallard is 56–65 cm long, has a wingspan of 81–98 cm, and weighs 0.9–1.2Kg. The breeding male is unmistakable, with a green head, black rear end and a yellowish orange (can also contain some red) bill tipped with black (as opposed to the dark brown bill in females). The female Mallard is light brown, like most female dabbling ducks. However, both the female and male Mallards have distinct purple speculum edged with white, prominent in flight or at rest (though temporarily shedded during the annual summer molt). In non-breeding (eclipse) plumage the drake becomes drab, looking more like the female, but still distinguishable by its yellow bill and reddish breast.

A noisy species, the male has a nasal call, the female the “quack” always associated with ducks.

Ecology

The Mallard inhabits most wetlands, including parks, small ponds and rivers, and usually feeds by dabbling for plant food or grazing; there are reports of it eating frogs. It usually nests on a river bank, but not always near water. It is highly gregarious outside of the breeding season and will form large flocks, which are known as a sord.

Breeding behavior

Mallards form pairs only until the female lays eggs, at which time she is left by the male. The clutch is 8–13 eggs, which are incubated for 27–28 days to hatching with 50–60 days to fledging. The ducklings are precocial, and can swim and feed themselves on insects as soon as they hatch, although they stay near the female for protection.

Ancestor of domestic ducks

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is the ancestor of almost all of the varieties of domestic ducks. Domestic ducks belong to the subfamily Anatinae of the waterfowl family Anatidae. The wild Mallard and Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) are believed to be the ancestors of all domestic ducks.

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