The Mallard, which is the most well-known species of wild duck, is about .6 m (2 feet) long and weighs about 1.1 kg (2-1/2 lbs). The male, called a drake, is brightly coloured from September to June. His stomach and back are gray while his head and neck are dark, shiny green. A white ring at the base of his neck separates the green feathers from the brown breast feathers. The feathers on his tail are small and curve upwards. The male’s call is low and hoarse rather than a loud quack, which we usually expect to hear from a duck. At the end of June, when the breeding season is over, the drake starts to lose his colourful feathers and he is unable to fly. Until the end of August, when his coloured plumage begins to return, he is clothed in spotted, brown feathers. The female, called simply a duck, has brown, spotted feathers similar to those of the male during his molting period. Unlike the male, she does not have any small curly tail feathers and her call is a loud quack, which is the sound we normally associate with a duck.
Mallard ducks can be found in a number of places around the world. They can be found in Europe and Asia from the Arctic Circle southwards to the Mediterranean Sea, Persia, Tibet, and Central China. They are also found, of course, in northern and central North America. Like other birds, Mallards migrate south in the autumn. Most North American Mallards head to Florida and Mexico when the air turns cold. Wild ducks are generally attracted to any body of water from small ponds and marshes to large lakes, rivers, and streams. If necessary, Mallards can also live on dry land away from water as well.
Mallard ducks feed day or night on leaves, seeds, grain, berries, worms, tadpoles, small frogs and small fish. They find most of their food in mud on land, at the edge of the water, and they will even stand up in deeper water to feed on the mud below. When a duck dabbles its bill in the mud in search of food, it is using a very efficient filtration system much like that of the baleen whale.
Reproduction and Offspring
Mallards pair off in autumn but do not begin to breed until spring. The nest is built by the female and is a shallow saucer of grass, dry leaves, and down feathers, on the ground covered by bushes or in the hollow of a tree up to 12.2 m (40 feet) off the ground. The female usually lays 10-12 grayish, green or greenish-buff eggs from March to October and are incubated by her for 22-28 days. Soon after hatching, the duck leads them to water or to a feeding ground if the water is far away. The drake does not play a part in caring for the ducklings. Ducklings are hatched into an easy life. Apart from feeding, ducks do little more than stand or sit around, preening from time to time. All in all, ducks spend most of their time doing nothing.