Meet the Mallard: The Most Common Duck in the World

Updated: Mar. 11, 2024

Learn what male and female mallard ducks look like and sound like. Look for mallards on open water; they usually nest near the water’s edge.

A male mallard duck (drake) has bright-green head, yellow bill and white collar. The female (hen) has plain brown plumage with an orange bill. Both males and females have a blue wing patch with white borders, most obvious in flight.

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Mallard Duck Facts

mallard duckCourtesy Ken Cheung
Female mallard duck landing on the water

Scientific Name: Anas platyrhynchos
Family: Duck
Length: 23 inches
Wingspan: 35 inches

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Mallard Nest and Eggs

Bnbbyc19 Julie DaulCourtesy Julie Daul
Female mallard sitting on a nest

Remarkably adaptable to civilization, the mallard—the most common duck in the world—will nest in a city park if there is even a small pond. This species usually nests near the water’s edge, but occasionally chooses a site on higher ground.

The mallard’s nest is built on the ground among dead grasses or reeds, often close to water. It can accommodate up to 13 light-colored eggs. To attract nesting mallards, plant hedges and shrubs near water. Only the females tend to the nest and eggs.

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What Do Mallard Ducks Eat?

mallard duck, types of ducksCourtesy Erick Watson
A mallard duck finds food in water

Their diet consists mostly of seeds and aquatic insects and plants. What foods can you feed to ducks?

Sound and Calls

Listen to the mallard duck’s sound. The female mallard gives a loud, quacking call. Male gives a short, rasping “quehp.”

Bird songs provided by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

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Range Map and Habitat

Birding experts Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman say, “Of all the ducks, mallards seem to be the best at adapting to live around humans. Flocks and families of mallards live in the semi-wild around many cities and suburbs, and may be seen walking across streets or resting on lawns or parking lots.” Look for mallards on open shallow, fresh water, surrounded by grassy fields and woodlands.

Mallard Bird Species

Range maps provided by Kaufman Field Guides, the official field guide of Birds & Blooms.

Next, learn how to identify an American coot.