FWS Focus

Overview

Characteristics
Overview

The mallard, Anas platyrhynchos, is a medium to large dabbling duck and is the most abundant duck species in North America. This species is found in all flyways and in almost any freshwater habitat. The mallard drake is often called a "greenhead" due to its distinctive iridescent green head. The females are known for making the quintessential "quack" of a duck.

Scientific Name

Anas platyrhynchos
Common Name
Mallard
FWS Category
Birds
Kingdom

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Genus

Identification Numbers

TSN:

Characteristics

Characteristic category

Physical Characteristics

Characteristics
Size & Shape

Mallards are a medium to large dabbling duck. Typical for dabbling duck species, their body sits high out of the water while sitting or swimming. In flight their feet are tucked up to the body and the neck is stretched forward.

Measurements

Length: 19.7 to 25.6 in (50 to 65 cm)

Wingspan: 32.3 to 37.4 in (82 to 95 cm)

Weight

Both sexes are similar in size ranging 2 to 3 pounds (.9 to 1.4 kilograms). 

Color & Pattern

The male, or drake, has a iridescent green head with a white neck ring and a chestnut breast. The drake's body is grayish. The female, or hen, has a mottled brown body. Both the hen and drake have purple-blue speculums, or  wing patches.

Sound

The basic loud quack associated with ducks, is the call of the female mallard. The male on the other hand, utters soft raspy notes or short whistles. 

Characteristic category

Life Cycle

Characteristics
Reproduction

Mallards primarily nest on the ground in grasslands, and once hatched, broods may travel long distances between the nest and wetlands. In urban areas, mallards often nest in flower beds, along roadsides, and even on roof tops. The nest is usually a shallow bowl shape made from grass and lined with down feathers and can contain up to 13 eggs. 

Lifecycle

After migrating south in the fall to avoid harsh winter weather, mallards display courtship behavior forming pairs of males and females. When it’s time for spring migration, the pair travels back north. Upon arrival the female mallard lays her eggs in a shallow nest made on the ground. The female independently incubates the eggs, while the male will leave to congregate with other males. Within a day of hatching, the chicks will swim, and they will be strong enough to fly and make the migration journey south by fall.

Lifespan

Mallards occur year-round throughout North America, but most individuals are migratory and breed in the northern United States and Canada and winter in the Southern United States and Mexico. Most of the breeding population occurs in the Prairie Pothole Region of the north-central United States and central Canada.

Geography

Characteristics
Range

Mallards occur year-round throughout North America, but most individuals are migratory and breed in the northern United States and Canada and winter in the Southern United States and Mexico. Most of the breeding population occurs in the Prairie Pothole Region of the north-central United States and central Canada.

 

Launch Interactive Map