Meet the Mallard: The Most Common Duck in the World

The mallard duck is the the most common duck in the world. Mallards usually nest near the water’s edge. Learn how to identify mallards.

What Does a Mallard Duck Look Like?

Close-up of bird flying over lakeJiri Zeman / 500px/Getty Images
Male mallard in flight

Distinctive Markings: A male mallard duck has bright-green head, yellow bill and white collar. The female 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

Mallard female with ducklings

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.

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What Do Mallard Ducks Eat?

What Should We Really Be Feeding Ducks©Rob Ripma

Diet: Seeds and aquatic insects and plants. What foods can you feed to ducks?

Bird Song

Listen to the Mallard’s song. 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

Habitat: Open shallow, fresh water, surrounded by grassy fields and woodlands. Learn where to spot mallard ducks.

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.

Jill Staake
Jill Staake's lifelong love of nature turned into a career during the years she spent working with native Florida butterflies, caterpillars, and other wildlife at the Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa, Florida. During this time, she helped to maintain 30+ acres of gardens and backwoods, all carefully cultivated to support the more than 20 species of butterflies displayed indoors and out. She now writes for a variety of publications and sites on topics like gardening and birding, among others.