Many domesticated animals descend from a specific species; for example, dogs are descended from gray wolves. This is the case with domestic duck breeds, which are almost all descended from the wild mallard duck. It is one of the most widespread duck species in the world and is commonly hunted in most of its range.
Mallard ducks grow to from 20-to-26 inches in length, with a wingspan of 32-to-37 inches and weigh around 35-to-45 ozs. The male mallard is a colorful bird with a metallic green head, rusty-colored chest and gray body. Females are more subdued in color with a mottled light brown plumage all over. The duck's long, broad body with short legs and webbed feet give it a distinctive waddling gait. The bills of both sexes are yellowish-orange and their legs and feet are reddish-orange.
Habitat and Range
Mallards live throughout the northern hemisphere, with the exception of the most northerly Arctic regions. It has also made its way into parts of southern Asia, South America, Africa and Australia. It is a migratory bird that can be found further north in summer and flies south in winter. The bird is highly adaptable and will exploit almost any freshwater wetland habitat, natural or man-made. The ducks can also spend time in brackish or even saltwater areas.
Diet and Predators
The mallard is an omnivore and will eat a wide range of foods. Aquatic plants, seeds and acorns are all common foods. Human crops are also exploited by the ducks when the chance arises. Insects, worms, fish and amphibians are all part of the mallard's diet as well. The mallard is clumsy when it walks and as it takes off, leaving it vulnerable to any number of predators. Large snakes, foxes, raccoons and birds of prey all pose a risk to adults. The small chicks are at risk from predatory fish and snapping turtles.
Mallards form breeding pairs several months before the mating season and will often display courtship behavior throughout the winter. The female lays between nine and 13 eggs in a vegetation-lined ground depression. The female is left to incubate the eggs alone, which takes around 26 to 28 days. After 13 to 16 hours, the newly hatched chicks are able to walk and will follow the mother down to the water and never will return to the nest. The ducklings follow the mother in a line. In the wild, mallards can live for five to 10 years on average.