Critter Corner - Mallard
DID YOU KNOW:
Ducks, including mallards, have oil glands on their backs near
the tail. They spread the oil over their feathers with
their bills. The duck oil keeps the bird warm and dry so
it can stay afloat and is able to fly.
Mallards are considered dabblers, which is a term used to
how they feed. Dabbling ducks have lamellae, which are
comb-like structures along the edges of their bills that strain
insects and plants from the water. The duck then eats the
strained food. Mallards are often seen with their heads
under water and their tails in the air. With its bill
under water, the duck opens its mouth to gather water, then
strains the water out, keeping only the good stuff.
Mallards build nests in grasses and reeds near water. The
female mallard plucks the soft feathers from her chest and uses
them to line the nest for warmth. She lays eight to ten
light-green eggs that hatch in about a month. As soon as
the downy ducklings hatch and have dried, Mom leads them
directly to the water. They follow Mom and feed from the
water. Young mallards can fly at about two months after
Freshwater ponds, lakes and marshes are the favored habitat.
Grassy areas near water are important for nesting and shelter.
Mallards can be seen throughout North America. They tend
to nest in the middle and northern parts of the continent and
migrate in the winter to the middle and southern parts. They
may use salt-water marshes in the winter months.
The mallard's main defense is flight. They can spring from
the water, hover a short time, and then fly away. A mother
duck will protect her clutch of eggs or ducklings by hissing at
an intruder in hopes of scaring it away. If caught, a duck
will try to beat the intruder off with its wings.
The male and female look very different.
The female's plumage is a mottled brown. The male has
a colorful green head, chestnut brown chest and lighter
colored wing feathers.
The body heat of a nesting female may cause the surrounding
grasses to grow more quickly. She arranges this grass
to help her stay camouflaged on the nest.
To learn more about
(Photo credits: Mallard
portrait from FNAL (Fermi Lab), Duck Beaks from Missouri
Department of Conservation, Male and Female portraits from Ducks