The Mallard the most familiar duck in northern hemisphere

The Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is a dabbling duck and classified as endemic to most of Europe and Eurasia. This waterfowl enjoys an almost holarctic distribution from the 66th parallel north (60th parallel north in central Siberia) southwards to subtropical Africa and to coastal Anatolia (Asia minor / Turkey) and to parts of south Asia. In central Europe the Mallard is the most common duck at all.

The European breeding population totals about 3.3 to 5.1 million breeding pairs. This duck is best known duck in urban areas where these birds settle in parks and on canals. They are not really shy and come close to humans hoping to get fed.

During winter it is estimated that roughly 9.0 million individuals of the mallards migrate to Europe and southwet Asia, with about 4 million mallards wintering in northwest Europe alone.

holarctic dabbling duck mallard anas platyrhynchos waterfowl
Holarctic waterfowl – species of the dabbling duck: The Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) – two males on water
group of mallards in water
Group of male Mallards with two females

Subspecies and Allospecies of the Mallard

There are two acknowledged subspecies of the Mallard:

  • Anas platyrhynchos platyrhynchos – most of the the holarctic exept for Greenland
  • Anas p. comboschas C.L. Brehm – this species is confined to Greenland

Allospecies are

  • Anas p. luzonica – Philippines
  • Anas p. superciliosa – Australasia
  • Anas p. wyvilliana – Hawaii Islands
  • Anas p. laysanensis – Laysan Island
  • Anas p. melleri – Madagasgar
  • Anas p. poecilorhyncha – India, southeast Asia
  • Anas p. zonorhyncha – east Asia
  • Anas p. rubripes – North America
  • Anas p. diazi – Mexico
  • Anas p. fuligula – southeast of North America
male mallard flying
Male Mallard flying over lake

Characteristics of the Mallard

Taxonomy of the Mallard

Order: Ducks and Geese (Anseriformes)
Family: Ducks (Anatidae)
Genus: Dabbling Ducks / True Ducks (Anas)
Species: Mallard

Scientific Name: Anas plathyrhynchos

Names and Synonyms of the Mallard

German: Stockente
French: Canard colvert
Spanish: Ánade azulón
Portuguese: Pato-real
Italian: Germano reale
Dutch: Wilde Eend
Czech: Kachna divoká
Slovak: Kačica divá
Hungarian: Tőkés réce
Croat: Divlja Patka
Finland: Sinisorsa
Norway: Stokkand
Danish: Gråand
Swedish: Gråsand
Polish: Krzyżówka
Russian: Кряква
Iceland: Stokkönd
Greenland: Qeerlutooq
Arabic: البُركة, البُركة بو الخصيف, الخضيري, خضاري
Hebrew: ברכיה, ברכיה (אירואסייתית), ברכייה
Chinese: 绿头鸭
Chinese (traditional): 綠頭鴨
Nepali: हरियो टाउके
North Sami: duoršu, Stuorravuojaš, Suoidnesuorsi
Inuit: Qeerlutooq

two mallards on lake
male Mallards in early spring

Distribution – Movements – Wintering

Distribution: The Mallard is distributed in two acknowledged subspecies and several allospecies across the entire holarctic and across the globe. Distribution starts at the the 66th parallel north (60th parallel north in central Siberia) southwards to subtropical Africa and to coastal Anatolia (Asia minor / Turkey) and to parts of south Asia. In central Europe the Mallard is the most common duck at all.

Movements: Mallards are migratory, with western and central European populations mostly being sedentary. However, during frosty periods these populations move to warmer areas and return as soon as weather conditions improve.

Wintering: Western and central Europe are wintering ranges; with additonal ranges being in northern Africa and south Asia.

Typical Habitat of the Mallard

The Mallard is a typical synanthropic species that keeps following humans. Therefore this species can be found in a variety of habitats. For breeding Mallard need at least standing or slow flowing waters with shallow water zones on the edges. Little wonder that we find Mallards in pakrs, gardens and even in graveyards. Mallards don’t need bodes of water close by for feeding. They even visit fields in order to find suitable food.


Mallards are both diurnal and nocturnal. Larger populations in parks can be really noisy during nights. They mainly look for food during early evening. Ground feeding in shallow water is most common for them. In case of danger Malalrds even dive.

pair of mallards
Pair of Mallards
female mallard
Female Mallard

Field Characteristics of the Mallard

The Mallard is a large duck with a stocky build. It is most familiar in parks and towns. Head and bill are large whith only a short tail. In flight wings look broad and blunt-tipped. Both male and female show glossy blue speculum (secondaries) with borad white borders.

Adult ♂: breeding moult shows metallic green head with a narrow white neck collar, breast is purplish brown with the rest of the body in a largely pale grey. Stern is black. Upperparts darker than buff. The two central tail feathers are upcurled which is unique to the male mallard.

Adult ♀: breeding moult is streaked brown. Crown and eye-stripe dark. Bill with blackish culmen. Buff lighter without streaks compared to upperparts. In flight shows whitish underwings coversts.

Juvenile looks similar to adult female but in lighter colours.

Bill: ♂ = yellow even in eclipse moult. ♀ = orange
Legs: orange:

Measurements and Voice

Size: 50-65 cm
Weight: 750-1575 g;
Ø: ♂ = 1170 g, ♀ = 1042 g
Wingspan: (75-) 81-99 (-100) cm
♂ = 272-289 mm
♀ = 252-277 mm

Voice: Male Mallards are very vocal uttering a nasal sound like “rhaeb” often in a series of calls; also used as alert call on water. Courting call sounds like “piu”. ♀utters loud quacking like “quaek-quaek quak-quak ….” when anxious.

sleeping pair of mallards
Sleeping pair of Mallards
pair of mallards
pair of Mallards


Sexually mature: matrures before the end of the first year. First breeding not before the second calender year.

Mating season: monogamous seasonal paring. Mating begings as early as autumn of each year but mating can last until the end of February. Re-pairing is not uncommon.

Clutches per season: 1 clutch
Breeding season: as early as February but mainly between March and June ending by July at the latest.

Nest: Well hidden ground nest of piled plant material assembled in the in the vicinity. Nest is build by female. Nests can be found in reed zones, under shrubs, in rootstocks, on fields and even on trees. Botch male and female select the nesting place.

Clutch, Eggs, Measurements

Clutch: (4-) 7-13 (max -18) eggs, larger clutches are mostly from two females. On average mallards have clutches of 6-9 eggs throughout Europe.
Recurrent Clutch: possible, but only if loss of clutchs happens in the early days of incubation
Eggs: oval eggs semi-glossy shell without stains

Egg Measurements:
Length: 50.0-65.0 mm
Width: 34.0-45.0 mm
Ø: 57.8×40.7 mm
Weight of fresh egg: 40-62 g
Shell weight: 3.2-6.0 g, Ø = 4.4 g

egg of mallard
By Klaus Rassinger und Gerhard Cammerer, Museum Wiesbaden – own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
lonely male mallard
Lonely male Mallard

Laying – Incubation – Fledging – Dependency

Laying Interval: 1 day, intervals of 2-3 days are also possible but are rare. Eggs are laid during early morning hours; even during frosty periods eggs are laid.
Begin of incubating: after laying the last egg

Incubation: 27-28 days. The female is tasked with incubating, whereas the male is around in the vicinity of the nest but later leaves clutchs and female.
Hatching: All ducklings hatch almost simultaneously but within 24 hours.

Fledging: Ducklings leave the nest as soon as the downs are dry after hatching, following the female. The male is not involved in loooking after the ducklings which take up food independently and are able to swim from the start. After 7 weeks juveniles can fly over short stretches only, after 8 weeks they are fully capable of flying.

Dependency: When juveniles are fully capable of flying all ties with their mother are cut and juveniles become fully independently.

female mallard swimming
Female Mallard


Food – Diet: Very divers diet, changing throughout the year depending on seasonal availability in the respective habitat. Between late winter and spring Mallards mainly feed on plants. After spring and into early summer animal food is their main diet. From late sommer to early autumn diet again changes to a more plant bbased diet.

In brackish and salt water Mallards mainly feed on animals most of the year. Mallard diet can consist of dried fruit, seeds, tubers, root bulbs, riparian plants, grass, berries, larvae and pupae of insects and water fleas. When available Mallards also feed on amphibian spawn, tadpoles, bettles and fry.

Longevity: The oldes known ringed bird of a Mallard reached an age of 25 years and 7 months.

Mortality: During the first year mortality can be as 90% but lowers to 52-55% in later years.

Enemies and Threats: Hunting, pesticides, botulism.

pair of mallards ii
Pair of Mallards


Bauer, Hans-Günther, Bezzel, Einhard et. al. (HG), Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 1+2, Sonderausgabe 2012, Aula Verlag, Wiebelsheim

Bauer, Hans-Günther, Bezzel, Einhard et. al. (HG), Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 3, Literatur und Anhang, Aula Verlag Wiebelsheim, 2. vollständig überarbeitete Auflage 1993

Bezzel, Einhard, Kompendium der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Non-Passeriformes, Band 1, AULA-Verlag Wiesbaden, 1985

Bruun/Singer/König/Der Kosmos Vogelführer, Franck’sche Verlagshandlung Stuttgart, 5. Auflage 1982

Glutz von Blotzheim, Urs et. al (HG), Handbuch der Vögel Mitteleuropas, Band 3, Anseriformes (2. Teil), Akademische Verlagsgesellschaft, Wiesbaden, 1969

Reeber, Sébastien, Wildfowl of Europe, Asia, and North America, Helm Identification Guides, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2015

Svenson, Lars et. al, Der Kosmos Vogelführer, Franck-Kosmos Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, Stuttgart, 2. Auflage 2011
Svenson, Lars, et al, Collins Bird Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe, Harper Collins London, 2019

Bundesamt für Naturschutz: Nationaler Vogelschutzbericht 2019 – Krickente = Teal – report section Se…Str – breeding birds (pdf Download – text in German)

pair of mallards iii
Pair of Mallards

Image Credits

Featured image of a mallard: by ©Raymond Loyal

Eggs of Mallard: By Klaus Rassinger und Gerhard Cammerer, Museum Wiesbaden – own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

All other post images of the mallard: by ©Raymond Loyal

sleeping female mallard
Female Mallard taking a nap in the early morning

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Published by Raymond Loyal Photography

Bird, Nature, Art and Architecture Photographer, Traveller, Blogger.

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