14 Interesting Facts about the Mallard Duck

It used to be that when someone mention the word “duck”, it was the mallard that I immediately thought of. Perhaps many people are like that. Mallards are the duck species that we come in contact with most as children. Feeding them in park ponds was always an exciting treat. Now that I’ve learned more and gathered the facts below, it’s kind of shocking to learn that maybe they are not the cartoon characters I imagined as a child.

Male Mallard Ducks

Male Mallard Ducks

This is some of what I have learned about the Mallard

  • The Mallard Duck is also known as the Wild Duck
  • Mallard Ducks are the most abundant and widespread of all waterfowl. Every year millions are harvested by hunters with little effect on their numbers.
  • Mallard Ducks are a noisy species. The male has a nasal call, and a high-pitched whistle. The female has a deeper quack stereotypically associated with ducks
    Mallard Ducks usually feed by dabbling for plant food or grazing; there are reports of it eating frogs.
  • When seeking out a suitable nesting site, the female Mallard’s preferences are areas that are well concealed and inaccessible to ground predators. This can include nesting sites in urban areas such as roof gardens, enclosed courtyards, and window ledge flower boxes more than one story up.
  • The nesting period can be very stressful for the female Mallard since she lays more than half her body weight in eggs. 

    Female Mallard Duck

    Female Mallard Duck

  • The Mallard’s clutch is 8–13 eggs, which are incubated for 27–28 days to hatching.
  • The Mallard ducklings are fully capable of swimming as soon as they hatch.
  • Mallards usually form pairs in October and November, but only remain together until the female lays her eggs in early spring, at which time she is left by the male. The male joins up with other males to await the molting period which begins in June.
  • After the female lays her eggs and before the male leaves the nest, the male Mallards are still sexually potent. Some of them either remain on standby to sire replacement clutches (for female Mallards that have lost or abandoned their previous clutch) or forcibly mate with females who appear to be isolated or unattached. This is done regardless of the female’s species and whether or not she already has a brood of ducklings 

    Male Mallard Duck

    Male Mallard Duck

  • When they pair off with mating partners, often one or several Mallard drakes end up “left out”. This group sometimes targets an isolated female duck, even one of a different species, and proceeds to chase and peck at her until she weakens, at which point the males take turns copulating with the female. Lebret (1961) calls this behavior “Attempted Rape Flight” and Cramp & Simmons (1977) speak of “rape-intent flights”.
  • Mallards frequently interbreed with their closest genetic relatives, such as the American Black Duck, and also with species more distantly related, for example the Northern Pintail, leading to various hybrids that may be fully fertile.
  • Mallards are opportunistically targeted by brood parasites, occasionally having eggs laid in their nests by Redheads, Ruddy Ducks, Lesser Scaup, Gadwalls, Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintails, Cinnamon Teal, Common Goldeneyes, and other Mallards. These eggs are generally accepted when they resemble the eggs of the host Mallard, although the hen may attempt to eject them or even abandon the nest if parasitism occurs during egg laying. 

    Mallard Duck in the Marsh

    Mallard Duck in the Marsh

  • Mallard Ducks are highly gregarious outside of the breeding season and form large flocks, which are known as sords.
  • Since 1933, the Peabody Hotel in Downtown Memphis, Tennessee has maintained a long tradition of keeping one Mallard drake and four Mallard hens, called The Peabody Ducks, as a popular hotel attraction and as guests of honor. The Mallards are provided by a local farmer and friend of the Peabody Hotel and are rotated out and returned to the farm for a new team of Mallards every three months.

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