Mallards are the best-known wild ducks in Virginia. The males is easily identified by his green head and white neck-ring. He also has a chestnut-colored breast with a grey body. The female is mottled brown all over with a white tail. This helps her blend in with her surroundings when she is nesting.
Since Mallards are waterfowl (water birds), they live near ponds, lakes, or marshes. Mallards are good swimmers with their webbed feet, which are orange. Mallards are also good fliers, and they can take off almost vertically (straight up) from the water.
In many parts of the country, Mallards migrate, but they often stay year-round in Virginia.
The female Mallard takes charge of raising their young. She chooses the nest site, and will often return to the exact same spot every year. She will lay 8-12 pale, greenish-white eggs after making a bowl-shaped nest out of grass and lining it with down (soft feathers) from her belly. Approximately one month later, the eggs will hatch. The mother Mallard raises her ducklings alone.
Fred Siskind, Huntley Meadows Park
Mallards are very good mothers. She will keep track of her young and stop to collect them if they get scattered. If a predator approaches, a mother Mallard will often pretend to be hurt by squawking and flapping on the ground. By doing this, she will lure the predator away from her young.
Young Mallards can fly after about two months. Until then, they are very vulnerable to predators. Foxes, raccoons, snapping turtles, and large fish will take ducklings. Mallard eggs are also eaten by crows, snakes, and other predators.
Young Mallards will eat small crustaceans (such as shrimp), insects, and plants (such as duckweed). As they get older, Mallards will eat grains and seeds from corn, wheat, barley, bulrushes, willow, water elm, oak, and hackberry. They will also eat young weeds and roots of plants in shallow water, as well as insect larvae from the muddy bottom, clams, snails, adult insects, small fish, tadpoles, fish eggs, and earthworms.
Relationships in Nature:
Relationship to Humans:
Mallards help humans by controlling insects and other small animals, such as snails. Mallards are also hunted and eaten. Additionally, many children (and adults) have enjoyed feeding Mallards with bread or seeds, although this is not recommended. Mallards need to eat wild food from their environment, and food made for humans (such as bread) is unhealthy for them.