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Anas platyrhynchos


The mallard is an extremely common dabbling duck that is easily identified by its iridescent green head and white neck ring. It lives year-round on shallow waters such as lakes, rivers and marshes throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.


  • Males and females have different patterns and coloring
  • Males have an iridescent green head, a yellow bill, and a white ring around the neck. Their chest is chestnut brown and their sides are grayish.
  • Females are mostly mottled brown with a brownish-orange bill and a dark stripe running through the eye
  • Both sexes have bluish or violet wing patches (called specula) bordered by black and white
  • Grows to 23-25 inches with a wingspan of 36 inches


  • Lives in many shallow-water areas, including streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands and harbors
  • Often found at marinas, parks and other areas frequented by humans


  • Found year-round throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed


  • Eats seeds, snails, insects, bay grasses and aquatic invertebrates
  • Feeds at the water’s surface or by “tipping up” its tail and submerging its head to reach food underwater


  • Humans hunt mallards


  • Can be identified in flight by its green head and bluish or violet wing patch bordered with white


  • Females quack loudly
  • Males have a low call that sounds like kewk-kewk
Mallard courtesy of Pamela C. Rasmussen/Avian Vocalizations Center

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

  • Breeds mostly in the prairie pothole region of Canada and the Dakotas
  • Local populations breed in the Bay watershed
  • Builds a nest on high ground near water
  • The female lays 8-10 pale, greenish eggs that hatch in 28 days
  • Ducklings follow the female into the water soon after hatching. They are immediately able to find and eat food on their own.
  • Ducklings fledge within two months of hatching

Other Facts:

  • One of the most abundant waterfowl in the world
  • Very closely related to black ducks. It is not uncommon for mallards and black ducks to breed, which produces mallard/black duck hybrids that have physical characteristics of both ducks.
  • Female mallards can be confused with black ducks. You can identify a female mallard by its lighter overall coloring. Mallards are also significantly more common than black ducks.

Sources and Additional Information:


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