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Mallard
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Mallard

Facts about the mallard

Family:  Anatidae
Length:  50 to 68.5 cm
Wing span:  61 to 78.7 cm
Weight:  Male, 1,247 g
Female, 1,107 gRecord longevity:  29 years 1 month.

Abundant and wide-ranging, the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is one of the most common wild ducks in the world.  It occurs throughout North America, Europe, Asia as well as Australia.

Did you know that this dabbling duck can easily walk on land and can take off vertically from water or land? 

Field Marks - Male

  • Metallic green head and neck.
  • Narrow white collar on neck.
  • Yellow bill.
  • Chestnut breast.
  • Light grey abdomen.
  • Orange legs and feet.

The characteristic plumage of the drake (male) appears in the first autumn, but only attains its full brilliance by the second year.  Coloration varies according to time of year.

Field Marks - Female

  • Mottled brown body.
  • Whitish tail.
  • Brown bill with orange markings.
  • Reddish orange legs and feet.

The plumage of the hen (female) is somewhat drab compared to the drake.  In both males and females, the hind edges of the wings have a blue rectangle bordered by a white bar on top and bottom. 

Habitat

The mallard frequents a variety of habitats:  swamps and ponds, lakes and rivers as well as grain fields and wooded areas.  A pair establishes a home range around its nesting site.  The home range encompasses a small territory, which the male defends aggressively.

Nesting

The hen determines the nesting site.  Quite often, she will nest in the vicinity of the site where she was born.  Some hens return to nest in the same location year after year.   Nest of grasses, reeds and leaves, lined with down and concealed in tall vegetation.

Baby ducks

When they hatch, baby ducks seem no more than little balls of brown and yellow down.  Yet only a few hours after they hatch, the hen leads the brood to water, where she will spend most of her time making sure to keep them warm and close to her.  She also teaches them how to forage for food. Towards the age of 6 to 8 weeks, the ducklings are self-reliant.

Diet

Mallards are surface-feeding ducks whose food consists mainly of aquatic vegetation and invertebrates, but they also relish grains and insects.  When dabbling for food in shallow water, the body is tipped, the head submerged and the tail upended in a vertical position.  

The Mallard is the ancestor of most domestic ducks.  This wild duck, whose somewhat gregarious nature often gets it into trouble, is also a favourite target of hunters since it is so easily lured by their decoys.

THE MALLARD SEASON BY SEASON

Spring - Summer

The breeding season begins very early in the spring.  Males, or drakes, put on an elaborate courtship display to woo the females (hens).  Once a pair is formed, the search for a nesting site begins. 

The female finds a well-concealed location in tall vegetation which is generally but not always close to water.  The eggs, laid in a little hollow in the ground that has been lined with grasses and down, are incubated for 28 days. On average, 7 to 10 eggs are laid.  Their colour varies from dull green to buff. 

The hen only leaves the nest to feed herself. When she senses a threat to her brood, she will move away from the nest and feign injury.  The drake stays around for about ten days.  Then he departs the area and begins to molt, which involves the loss of his flight feathers, so he’s literally grounded for a month.  Male plumage is similar to the female’s during this period.

Fall - Winter

After the crops are harvested in the fall, Mallards flock to feast upon the waste grains in stubble fields.

When ice begins to form on the lakes, Mallards migrate to the southern, eastern and western regions of the United States, and as far as Central and South America.  However, some will winter in more northerly areas when the waterways remain sufficiently free of ice to ensure enough forage.  Although the Mallard prefers fresh water, it does frequent coastal salt water, especially in winter.  

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Comments

Canard Colvert

Par RichardBeauchamp, 2015-05-25, 13h34

Merci pour ce magnifique reportage, si seulement vous pouvez toucher un chasseur à changer con comportement cela serai une recette gagnante pour la sauvegarde de ces magnifiques canards. Richard .

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