This article is about the Mallard duck. For other uses of the term, see Mallard (disambiguation).
Conservation status: Lower risk (lc)
A drake in flight
Scientific classification
Species:A. platyrhynchos
Binomial name
Anas platyrhynchos
Linnaeus, 1758

The Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is a common and widespread dabbling duck which breeds throughout the temperate and sub-tropical areas of North America, Europe and Asia. It also frequents Central America and the Caribbean. It is probably the best-known of all ducks.

This 56-65 cm length dabbling duck is strongly migratory in the northern parts of its breeding range, and winters farther south. It is highly gregarious outside of the breeding season and will form large flocks.

The breeding male is unmistakable, with a green head, black rear end and a blue speculum edged with white, obvious in flight or at rest. Males also possess a yellow bill with a black tip, whereas females have a dark brown bill.

The females are light brown, with plumage much like most female dabbling ducks. They can be distinguished from other ducks, by the distinctive speculum.

In non-breeding (eclipse) plumage, the drake looks more like the female.

It is a bird of most wetlands, including parks, small ponds and rivers, and usually feeds by dabbling for plant food or grazing. It nests usually on a river bank, but not always particularly near water.

This is a noisy species. The male has a nasal call, whereas the female has the very familiar "quack" always associated with ducks.

Mallards frequently interbreed with the American Black Duck, Northern Pintail and domesticated species, leading to various hybrids.

Breeding behaviour

Mallards are among the very few animals that practice forcible rape. When they pair off with mating partners, often one or several drakes will end up "left out". This group will sometimes target an isolated female duck - pestering and pecking at her until she weakens (a phenomenon referred to by researchers as attempted "rape flight"), at which point each male will take turns raping the female.

As of 2005, a Dutch researcher, Kees Moeliker, has won an Ig Nobel prize for his paper on ‘homosexual necrophilia in the Mallard Anas platyrhynchos’. "Rape is a normal reproductive strategy in Mallards," explains Mr Moeliker. He recounts in his paper that he heard the bang of a duck hitting a window outside his office in the Natuurmuseum Rotterdam: "I went downstairs immediately to see if the window was damaged, and saw a drake mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) lying motionless on its belly in the sand, two metres outside the facade. The unfortunate duck apparently had hit the building in full flight at a height of about three metres from the ground. Next to the obviously dead duck, another male Mallard (in full adult plumage without any visible traces of moult) was present. He forcibly picked into the back, the base of the bill and mostly into the back of the head of the dead Mallard for about two minutes, then mounted the corpse and started to copulate, with great force, almost continuously picking the side of the head."

Photo gallery

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