Mallard Ducks

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With a sleek green head, gray flanks, and a black tail curl you have probably seen the male mallard duck enjoying the local selection of bread from people feeding them in city and suburban parks.  In fact, mallards can be found in almost any natural or artificial wetland in Indiana.  Their ability to adapt to various habitats, their resilience to cold climates, and their tolerance to human activities helped the Mallards spread to almost every corner of North America.

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Mallards undergo sexual dimorphism in which females possess significantly different phenotypic characteristics compared to males.  Females wear a brown feathered coat and communicate with their orange-and-brown bills.  Contrary to popular belief, not all ducks quack—only females quack—males make a quiet, raspy sounding voice. 

Mallard pairs often are monogamous; however, paired males will try to copulate with females other than their mates. Mallard pairs form in the fall, but courtship may occur throughout the winter till the mating season in the spring.

Mallards will shed their flight feathers after the breeding season and will not be able to fly for 3 to 4 weeks!  Females form a small depression in dry ground near a wetland to place their eggs.  Females find overhanging grass or vegetation to hide their nests.

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While not endangered nor threatened, human activity can harm mallard populations.  Mercury, pesticide, and selenium pollution may decrease the health quality of Mallards and in the past humans have drained and cleared wetlands from which Mallards and all ducks rely for breeding and foraging.

For more information about Mallards visit The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and for information on all of Indiana’s ducks visit The Ducks Unlimited website.