The Mallard or wild duck (Anas platyrhynchos) is a species dabbling ducks that feed mainly at the surface rather than by diving. When wounded, however, it is skillful in avoiding capture by swimming underwater or hiding among the rushes, with only its bill protruding. It is the most widely distributed and abundant duck in the northern hemisphere, occurring in Eurasia and North America.
The Mallard is an active and quite wary bird. It springs from the water, at a single bound, straight up into the air for several yards and, when clear from the surrounding reeds, bushes, and trees, flies directly away in a swift, strong, and well-sustained flight. Several loud quacks are usually uttered as the bird springs into the air.
Courtship and pairing get underway in the fall and continue throughout the fall and winter into the spring. Ducks do not pair for life, and new pair bonds must be formed in advance of each breeding season. Since Mallards are so tame and display on open water, it is so easy for a curious observer to become acquainted with their display behavior.
The Mallard , especially the female, is a noisy bird on its feeding ground. Optimal mallard habitat consists of a permanent marsh surrounded by small, shallow ponds, but mallards also inhabit other wetland complexes – swamps, lakes, and streams. Marsh habitat is especially important for brood rearing and for cover during molting.
Most Mallards nest on the ground within 100 yeards of water, often in marsh growth. Sometimes they nest far from water in upland meadows, muskrat lodges, and small islands. Whatever type cover Mullard chooses, the nest is usually placed in dense plant growth about 2 feet high. The hen scrapes a nest bowl, rimming it with fragments of vegetation.
The Mallard is a hardy bird, and its winter range is a wide one, reaching as far north as it can find open water. Although essentially a fresh-water duck throughout its general range, sometimes it is forced to resort to the mouths of rivers and bays where it can find open water.
Primarily seed eaters, Mallards consume a wide variety of food items, including insects, crustaceans, mollusks, fishes, and mosquitos with their larvae and pupae. Mallards are very useful in destroying locusts and armyworms, which sometimes can be serious pests.
- Arthur Cleveland Bent – Life Histories of North American Wild Fowl
- John Andrew Eastman – Birds of Lake, Pond, and Marsh: Water and Wetland Birds of Eastern North America
- Fred A. Ryser – Birds of the Great Basin: A Natural History