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Mallard

Anas platyrhynchos ORDER: ANSERIFORMES FAMILY: ANATIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

If someone at a park is feeding bread to ducks, chances are there are Mallards in the fray. Perhaps the most familiar of all ducks, Mallards occur throughout North America and Eurasia in ponds and parks as well as wilder wetlands and estuaries. The male’s gleaming green head, gray flanks, and black tail-curl arguably make it the most easily identified duck. Mallards have long been hunted for the table, and almost all domestic ducks come from this species.

Calls

The quintessential duck’s quack is the sound of the female mallard. Females often give this call in a series of 2–10 quacks that begin loudly and get softer. When courting, she may give a paired form of this quack. The male does not quack; instead he gives a quieter, rasping, one- or two-noted call. Ducklings make soft, shrill whistles when alarmed.

Other Sounds

Males make a rattling noise by rubbing the bill against the flight feathers in a special display that resembles stylized preening. This display is given toward a mate and presumably helps maintain the pair bond.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

If you have a pond or marshy area on your property Mallards might be attracted to your backyard. Occasionally, Mallards have been known to show up in people’s swimming pools.

Consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on our Attract Birds pages. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.

Find This Bird

Look for Mallards at local city or suburban parks, where they’re likely to be accepting food handouts from humans. If you want to see them in a more natural setting, visit a nearby pond or lake—Mallards are likely to be the ducks you most frequently see.

Get Involved

You can help scientists learn more about this species by participating in the Celebrate Urban Birds project.

You Might Also Like

Simple Steps for Identifying Confusing Brown Ducks—Females and Otherwise, All About Birds blog, November 21, 2014.

What to Watch For: Duck Courtship [video], All About Birds blog, January 20, 2015.

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bird image Blue-winged Warbler by Brian Sullivan

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