Physical characteristics: Mallards weigh between 1.7 and 3.5 pounds (750 to 1,580 grams) and measure 19.7 to 25.6 inches (50 to 65 centimeters) long. The head of the male is metallic green and the chest is brown. Feet are orange.
Geographic range: Without doubt the most abundant duck, there are approximately ten million mallards in North America and millions more in Eurasia, Europe, and Asia.
Habitat: Mallards live in the shallow, calm waters of wetlands, including marshes, bays, and even city ponds. They prefer to have the protection of some vegetative cover.
Diet: Mallards eat fish, amphibians, and invertebrates. They also on plant parts and eat insects and worms. They eat by dipping their heads beneath the water's surface or by upending, but rarely do they dive.
Behavior and reproduction: Mallards are territorial and become very aggressive when their space is intruded upon. A migratory bird, mallards are among the first to return to breeding grounds in the spring.
Males and females search for nesting ground together. The female lays eight to twelve eggs in her ground nest. Incubation lasts twenty-seven to twenty-eight days, during which the male leaves the female to join a new flock. Ducklings fly between the age of fifty and sixty days and are ready to breed at one year. Mallards are seasonally monogamous, have just one mate per season, and have been known to breed with other species.
Mallards are vocal. The male makes soft sounds while the female quacks so loudly that her call can be heard from miles away. Hawks prey on eggs, but adult mallards are preyed upon primarily by human hunters.
Mallards and people: Mallards are popular with humans because of their beautiful coloration and for their abundant numbers. In Canada, 50 percent of all ducks are mallards. This species is highly tolerant of human activity, which is why public parks are popular habitats. People not only hunt adult mallards for their meat, but also harvest their eggs.
Conservation status: Mallards are common, and not threatened. The Hawaiian subspecies are rare. ■
Mallards live in the shallow, calm waters of wetlands, including marshes, bays, and even city ponds. These birds migrate, and are some of the first to return to breeding grounds in the spring. (© Manfred Danegger/OKAPIA/ Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)
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