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Mallard Anas platyrhynchos


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Male and female Mallard
credit:  Richard Bartz/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Anatidae, Ducks and Geese view all from this family

Description ADULT MALE Has yellow bill and green, shiny head and upper neck that are separated from chestnut breast by striking white collar. Underparts are gray-brown, except for black vent and white tail. Back is gray-brown, grading to a more reddish brown. Legs and feet are orange. In eclipse plumage, male resembles an adult female, but note yellow bill color and well-defined reddish brown breast. ADULT FEMALE Has orange-brown bill and mottled brown plumage. Legs and feet are dull orange-yellow. JUVENILE Similar to adult female.

Dimensions Length: 18-27" (46-69 cm)

Habitat Found virtually throughout the region, favoring almost every habitat where water is present, with the exception of the highest mountains and northernmost tundra. Commonest on lowland lakes, rivers, and marshes, but will also thrive on ornamental lakes in urban areas, where it often becomes tame. Most Canadian birds move south, or to the coast, in winter.

Observation Tips Easy to find throughout the region. Identification of the male is straightforward, except in eclipse plumage, when it resembles a female. Female could be confused with females of other larger dabbling ducks, but for much of year females seen in company of males.

Range Southwest, Western Canada, California, Southeast, Great Lakes, Texas, Alaska, Florida, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, New England, Mid-Atlantic, Eastern Canada

Voice Male utters range of whistles and nasal calls. Female utters familiar quacking calls.

Discussion The most widespread and familiar duck in the region: there are few sizeable water bodies that lack their quota of resident Mallards. Feeds mainly on aquatic vegetation, and some invertebrates, by dabbling and, if necessary, upending in shallows. In flight, both sexes show a white-bordered blue speculum. Sexes are dissimilar: male has colorful elements to its plumage, while female's subdued brown coloration affords it excellent camouflage when nesting.