International Wildlife Encyclopedia - Vol. 11

By Maurice Burton; Robert Burton | Go to book overview

A male mallard in
full breeding plumage,
worn from September
to June. Mallard are
among the most
widespread and
numerous of all ducks
.

ALTHOUGH THERE ARE many species of wild ducks, the mallard is probably the one that most people in the Northern Hemisphere think of as the [wild duck.] It is also the ancestor of most domesticated ducks. The mallard is about 2 feet (60 cm) long and weighs 1⅔–3 pounds (0.75–1.4 kg). The male, or drake, is brightly colored from September to June. His belly and most of his back are gray. His head and neck are a dark glossy green, and a white ring at the base of the neck separates the green from the brown of the breast. He has small, curled feathers on the tail, and his voice is a low, hoarse call. The female, or duck, is a mottled brown, her voice is a loud quack and she has no curly tail feathers.


Eclipse plumage

From July to August the drake mallard is in eclipse plumage. That is, he molts his colorful feathers at the end of June, is clothed in a mottling similar to that of the duck and resumes his colored plumage at the end of August. During this time he is replacing the flight feathers and so cannot fly. At all times of year both sexes have purplish blue specula (wing patches).

Mallard breed in Europe and Asia from the Arctic Circle southward to the Mediterranean, Iran, Tibet and central China, and in northern and central North America. Throughout this huge range there is a general southward movement in autumn to North Africa, southern Asia, the southern United States and Mexico.


Any wetland will do

Mallard are attracted to almost any fresh water, from small ponds in woodlands to large lakes, reservoirs, rivers, irrigation ditches, streams and marshes, although they often live on dry land well away from water. This habit is taken advantage of by wildfowlers and bird-lovers alike as mallard can be encouraged to breed quite easily by digging a pond with small islands or floating basket nests. Mallard spend much time on land even when water is available, standing or sitting about and preening from time to time. On land they waddle apparently awkwardly; on water they swim easily and dive only when alarmed. In the air mallard fly with rapid, shallow wingbeats and with neck outstretched, rising straight off the water in a steep ascent.

-84-

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International Wildlife Encyclopedia - Vol. 11
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Contents 3
  • Leopard 4
  • Leopard Frog 7
  • Leopard Seal 9
  • Limpet 11
  • Limpkin 13
  • Ling 15
  • Linnet 17
  • Linsang 19
  • Lion 20
  • Little Auk 24
  • Lizards 26
  • Llama 30
  • Loach 33
  • Lobster 35
  • Locust 38
  • Loggerhead Turtle 41
  • Long-Horned Beetle 43
  • Loon 45
  • Lorikeet 48
  • Loris 50
  • Lory 53
  • Lovebird 55
  • Lugworm 57
  • Lumpsucker 59
  • Lungfish 61
  • Lungless Salamander 63
  • Lynx 66
  • Lyrebird 69
  • Macaque 71
  • Macaw 74
  • Mackerel 77
  • Magpie 79
  • Magpie Lark 82
  • Mallard 84
  • Mallee Fowl 87
  • Mamba 90
  • Manakin 92
  • Manatee 94
  • Mandrill 96
  • Maned Wolf 99
  • Mangabey 101
  • Mannikin 104
  • Mantis 106
  • Mantis Fly 109
  • Mantis Shrimp 111
  • Marabou 113
  • Marine Iguana 115
  • Marine Toad 117
  • Markhor 119
  • Marlin 121
  • Marmoset 123
  • Marmoset Rat 126
  • Marmot 128
  • Marsupial Cat 131
  • Marsupial Frog 133
  • Marsupial Mole 135
  • Marsupial Mouse 137
  • Marten 139
  • Index 142
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