The mallard duck is another ‘constant’ that I see on my walks at Boomer Lake. These along with the Canada goose are our two main ‘year-around’ residents (in terms of ducks and geese) on the lake.
Usually I will see either a male, a pair, or a group of males swimming through the coves or even out on the more open part of the lake in the mornings.
If I’m up there a little later in the day, they may be sitting along the bank or mixing with the geese (this happens frequently when there are predators hitting both species at night).
Sometimes when the there is a decent amount of water running through the creek, we may even see a pair closer to the house.
The mallards are fairly large members of the Anatidae family, ranging somewhere in size between the teals and the Canada goose.
There is a color difference between male and female mallards.
The males have a dark green head that pairs with a gray body, brown breast, and black rear. The females (and juveniles) are mottled brown in color. Both have the blue ‘patch’ on the wing.
The mallard can be spotted somewhere within North America at any given point of the year.
Their summer range is to the north–Alaska, Canada, and parts of various northern states (such as North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine), while majority of the lower forty-eight states fall within its year-round range. Though there are a few southern states that may only see the mallard during the winter months (such as Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida).
They will breed as far north as Greenland, and can be spotted during the winter months also in parts of Mexico.
Mallards are the classical example of a dabbling duck.
They don’t dive for their food, but they rather tip forward in the water, up-ending themselves to where yo might spot a duck butt as they’re going for aquatic vegetation or possibly aquatic insects.
Since they’re generalists, their diet includes everything from seeds and grains to aquatic insects, earthworms, snails, and otehr aquatic invertebrates. They’ll also forage on land, eating seeds from various grasses, insects, and other items.
Here are some odd facts about the mallard:
- They’re the most abundant and widespread duck in North America.
- They’re the ancestor of basically every domestic duck breed (with the exception of the Muscovy duck)
- The Mexican duck is still considered a subspecies of the mallard (the males are slightly duller in color)
- The Hawaiian duck was considered a subspecies, but has been granted full species status
- If you hear the standard duck quack–you’re hearing the female mallard, the males have a quieter and raspier call.
- For the ones that migrate (those that breed up in Alaska and Canada), they’ve been clocked at a minimum of fifty-five miles per hour a they migrate.
- They interbreed easily with other ducks, and have been known to hybridize with the following duck species: the American black duck, the mottled duck, the gadwall, northern pintail, cinnamon teal, green-winged teal, and canvasback ducks within the the US. Outside of the US, they’re been known to hybridize with the Hawaiian duck, the grey duck in New Zealand, and hte Pacific black duck in Australia.
A photography goal may be trying to get pictures of the different ‘hybrid’ mallards throughout the US and abroad.