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Mallard Ducks – Get to Know More About These Flying Wild Ducks

Mallard ducks

Have you ever witnessed some mallard ducks roaming around city parks and tried feeding them? These dabbling wild ducks are a wonderful sight to behold.

And if you’re wondering if they can make good pets and how they perform in the meat and egg department, you came to the right place.

In this comprehensive guide to mallard duck’s world, we’ll discuss:

  • Mallard ducks’ unique appearance and distinctive features
  • Their meat production and egg-laying capabilities
  • Temperament and nesting or breeding behaviors

Should you decide to raise some mallard birds, we also curated several care tips and diet guides to ensure they’ll thrive in your hands.

Mallard Ducks infographics

So, if you wanted to get more insights regarding this bird species, join us as we explore their world.

Quick Facts About Mallard Ducks

Origin: Europe, Asia, and Northern America
Size: Length: 19.7-25.6 in (50-65 cm)
Drakes: 1.6 to 3.5 pounds (0.72 – 1.6 kg)
Egg Production: 140 eggs per year
Starts Laying: 25 to 30 weeks old
Egg Color: White to pale green
Egg Size: 2.1-2.5 in (5.3-6.4 cm) by 1.5-1.8 in (3.9-4.5 cm)
Primary Purpose: Meat and egg production
Conservation Status: Least Concern

male mallard duck

Meet the Mallard Ducks

Mallard Ducks are wild birds with excellent flying ability and striking coloration.

Why is it called a Mallard? The term originally referred to any male wild duck or drake since it was believed to come from the Old French malart or mallart which means “wild drake”.

How Much Does a Mallard Duck Weigh?

These flying wild ducks weigh about 0.72 to 1.6 kg. Therefore, they’re larger than a teal and crow but smaller than a Canadian goose. With a length of 19.7 to 25.6 inches, mallards can be considered fairly large and good table birds.

Mallards are migratory birds that fly in flocks in a V formation. During their winter migration, they travel long distances to find places with warm weather.

How Far Can Mallard Ducks Fly?

These wild birds can fly 800 miles during their 8-hour flight with a 50 mph tailwind. So, how far do mallard ducks migrate?

A study that focused on mallard movements revealed that the average distance traveled by satellite-marked mallard ducks during their spring migration is more than 730 miles. But the average distance traveled by each bird during fall migration was about 875 miles.

female mallard and mallard drake

Mallard Duck Characteristics and Appearance

Mallard ducks boast long, hefty bodies with rounded heads and wide and flat bills.

Sexual dimorphism is evident in male and female mallards, but thanks to that, it’s easier to tell the sexes apart.

How Can You Tell If a Mallard Duck is Male or Female?

Adult male mallard ducks have dark, iridescent green heads with bright yellow bills, chestnut-brown breasts, and white rings around their neck.

Female mallards and juveniles, on the other hand, feature a mottled brown feathering pattern paired with orange-and-brown bills. Both sexes feature a white-bordered, blue “speculum” patch in their wings.

Mallard Ducks’ Origin and History

These wild ducks can be found throughout Europe, Asia, and Northern America but they’re more abundant in the Northern Hemisphere. Mallard ducks can spend the winter as far south as northern Africa, southern Mexico, and India.

But in the 20th century, mallard birds expanded their range eastward through southern Canada. They usually nestle in wetland habitats like ponds, marshes, bogs, riverine floodplains, lakes, reservoirs, rivers, city parks, farms, and estuaries.

You may find them feeding around roadside ditches, pastures, croplands, and rice fields. They can also be found in prairie potholes and ephemeral wetlands.

mallard ducks behavior

Mallard Duck Behavior and Temperament

Mallards are present in many urban and suburban parks, and because park visitors often feed them, they can become incredibly docile and friendly.

But they can be extremely cautious of approaching people in environments that are more natural and where they are actively hunted.

They frequently interact with other dabbling ducks and can hybridize with them. Mallards exhibit a wide range of behaviors that are intriguing to see and interpret.

During their breeding season, male mallard ducks frequently congregate around a female to show off their moves. And they court females by glancing over their shoulders, flapping their wings, or bringing their heads up out of the water.

A female might encourage a man in return by paddling with her head held low or by swaying her head back and forth.

How Smart Are Mallard Ducks?

These intelligent and emotional creatures can understand commands and enjoy playing with toys, and games.

They may also give kisses and beg for snuggles if handled frequently and gently from an early age. However, some mallard ducks can be indifferent.

Are Mallard Ducks Aggressive?

Male mallard ducks can be more aggressive and territorial than domestic ducks and female mallards. They can also be aggressive toward their female counterparts during their breeding period due to their high sex drives.

Their other aggressive behavior includes charging, chasing, ripping out feathers and skin, and noise making.

Males may face off with a head-bob, threaten an attacker with an open bill, or press against each other, breast to breast. Males in pairs engage in fierce, acrobatic chasing to protect their territory. And in other regions, they’re considered invasive.

Why Are Mallard Ducks Invasive?

These birds can interbreed with 63 other duck species and create hybrid offspring which results in genetic pollution and extinction of other purebred waterfowls.

mallard ducklings with the mallard hen

Mallard Duck’s Purpose

Due to mallards’ beautiful feathering, they can pass as ornamental and show duck breeds. But they can also produce good meat and eggs.

Egg Production

Let’s talk about common questions about their egg-laying capabilities first. It’s crucial to consider these questions if you’re planning to raise mallard ducks for eggs. 

So, how many eggs do mallard ducks lay?

Mallard hens can lay an average of 140 eggs per year and they start laying when they’re around 25 to 30 weeks old. These broody hens have excellent mothering skills and can make good foster moms too!

How long do mallard duck eggs hatch?

In other words, how long do mallard birds sit on eggs? Well, like other ducks, their average incubation period lasts for 28 days but it can extend to 30 days.

How long do mallard ducks stay with their mother?

Ducklings need to stay with their mother for 50 to 60 days to survive. After that period, they can already fledge and be independent when foraging for food.

How many ducklings can a mallard duck have?

A female mallard’s clutch is around 12 eggs but the number of ducklings who can survive may vary. Their survival rate ranges from less than 10% to as high as 70%.

Meat Production

Both the drake and female mallard meat are delicate and lean with a gamey taste. It has a savory flavor with a tough texture and a slightly sour taste.

Drakes become mature and ready for breeding when they’re 6 months old and the recommended drake to hen ratio is 1 drake for every 5 females.

mallard duck diet

How to Raise Mallard Ducks

Mallard birds are generally healthy and low-maintenance. They can be friendly and can produce a good amount of meat and eggs. So, if you decide to raise and domesticate some mallard ducks, here are some tips to help you succeed.

Mallard Duck Diet and Nutrition

Let’s talk about what mallard ducks eat first. These migratory birds are good foragers who feed on different kinds of food.

Wild mallard ducks don’t dive. They dabble around on the shore instead. They also eat some vegetation and prey on the ground.

Their diet during the breeding season consists of larvae, earthworms, snails, and freshwater shrimps. But during migration, they mainly feed on agricultural seeds and grain.

They prefer invertebrates and bugs during winter because they need protein, but these foods are hard to find during this season. So many mallards eat plant matter as an alternative during the cold season.

Here are other things these omnivores can eat and gorge on:

  • Cracked corn
  • Grains, such as barley
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Chopped lettuce
  • Aquatic plant matter
  • Grass
  • Flowering plants
  • Tree leaves
  • Bugs and insects
  • Aquatic invertebrates
  • Small fish
  • Mollusks
  • Worms

Those living in city parks feed on anything the parkgoers give such as seeds and breeds.

How much do mallard ducks eat?

According to Wildlife Society Bulletin, mallard ducks are capable of eating 70 to 120 grams of grain and duck feed in captivity.

Water and Mallard Ducks

As said earlier, mallard ducks need water so they prefer wetland areas. So, if you decide to raise one, it’d be better if you can provide them with a small pond or pool where they can swim.

You also need to give them accessible clean drinking water where they can dunk their bills when they feel the need to.


Since these birds are used to having freedom in the wild, they’d love to forage and explore in your area and stretch their legs.

However, if you don’t have enough free-ranging space, a swimming exercise in a pool or mini pond will do.


You don’t need to build elaborate shelters for ducks. A chicken coop or converted sheds will do as long as they have enough space of at least 10 square feet each.

But before you purchase mallard ducks, you need to compute your available space because it’s one of the things overlooked and common mistakes by newbies when buying ducks. 


Like other ducks, mallards will thrive more if they have a companion. They can be good pets and friendly with humans but they can be difficult to handle when they’re old. So, other people decided to turn them loose.

mallard bird flying

The Lifespan of Mallard Ducks

Mallard ducks in the wild can fall victim to different predators so their lifespan is generally shorter than those in captivity.

So, How Long Do Mallard Ducks Live?

Mallards’ average lifespan range from 5 to 10 years. Due to different threats surrounding them in the wild, these ducks hardly pass the first year of their lives but those who succeeded can enjoy quite a long life.

How Long Do Mallard Ducks Live as Pets?

How long do mallard ducks live in captivity? Domesticated mallard birds can live up to 15 years or if well cared for as pets.

Some mallard pets even managed to live past 30 years.

Mallard Ducks’ Conservation Status

Mallards are the most hunted North American ducks, accounting for 1 every 3 ducks shot. However, their population is stable from 1966 to 2019 according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources(IUCN) also listed the mallard breed as “Least Concern”.  Partners in Flight estimate their population to be around 19 million breeding birds and consider them as of low conservation concern.

The Mallard duck population increases during the wet season and decreases when there’s drought in the middle of the continent. They can also fall victim to lead poisoning, poor water quality, mercury, pesticide and selenium pollution, and oil spills.

mallard ducks for sale near me

Where to Find Mallard Ducks for Sale Near Me?

Since these wild ducks are widespread, it shouldn’t be hard to find a mallard duck from reputable breeders in your area. However, if you can find any in your locality, you may check out the following farms if there are mallard ducks available:

How Much Does a Mallard Duck Cost?

Male mallard duck price starts at $7 but females are more expensive, with costs ranging from $9 to $13.

You have to know, however, that it can be risky to ship live animals but with the right shipping practices and extra care, your ducks may arrive safely.

female mallard duck

Frequently Asked Questions About Mallard Ducks

We also compiled the most asked questions about this breed to help you get to know more about the mallards.

Do Mallard ducks mate for life?

Mallards don’t mate for life because they only mate and stay together until the female mallard lays her eggs. After this, the drake will abandon the female to find food-rich places.

What mallard ducks mate for life?

Mallards don’t mate for life because they only pair up during the breeding season, around October or November. Then, they leave the female alone during her incubation period to look for greener pastures.

What is the difference between a duck and a mallard?

Basically, a mallard is just one breed of duck. There are hundreds of ducks species in the wild today and mallards are among the most widespread and famous breeds.

Do mallard ducks come back to the same place every year?

Some female mallards return after a year to their former nesting site. These migratory birds travel long distances from their wintering grounds to breeding areas using visual and nonvisual cues.

Where do mallard ducks live?

Mallard ducks prefer calm, shallow sanctuaries and wetlands but they’re found in almost any bodies of freshwater in Asia, Europe, and North America. But they’re more abundant in the Northern Hemisphere.

What eats a mallard duck?

Mallard duck’s predators include American crows, mink, foxes, coyotes, skunks, weasels, feral cats, raccoons, and snapping turtles. But their main enemies are humans because they’re the common target of hunters in the wild.

What is the lifespan of a mallard duck?

Mallard ducks’ lifespan ranges from 5 to 10 years. If they’re lucky enough to survive their predators in their first year, they can live a long life. Some mallards have even lived for 30 years in the wild.

What is special about a mallard duck?

Female mallard ducks are known for their quack sound which is often termed as “hail call” or “decrescendo call”. They use it to call their baby ducklings. These dabbling ducks are also unique because they never dive into the water.

Where do mallard ducks sleep at night?

Mallard ducks are flexible as they can sleep both on land and water. Yes, they can sleep while floating on water and they’re semi-nocturnal so they’re still active at night.

Where do mallard ducks go in the winter?

Mallard ducks from Canada and Alaska migrate to the southern United States and Northern Mexico through famous migration flyways during fall. They temporarily leave their nesting grounds to look for warmer habitats.

Do mallards make good pets?

These flying wild ducks can make good pets when they’re young as they can be friendly, smart, funny, and adorable. However, mallards and other ducks can produce lots of manure and loud quacks at times.

How much are mallard ducklings?

Male ducklings’ price starts at $7 while female mallards are somewhere at $13. But you can save a lot if you’d purchase hundreds of ducklings in one batch.

Do mallard ducks lay eggs?

Yes! Mallard ducks do lay eggs between mid-March and the end of July and their clutch ranges from 9 to 12 eggs. And they can produce a total of 140 or more eggs yearly.

mallard drake swimming

Mallard Ducks: Our Final Thoughts

Mallards aren’t the best ducks for meat and egg production. But since they’re wild ducks, their ability to produce around 140 eggs per year is already impressive. However, you have to note that their egg-laying capability decreases as they age.

These birds can be friendly, smart, and entertaining but mallard drakes also have aggressive tendencies, especially during the breeding season.

They can make good pets when they’re young, but mallard ducks may lose their novelty when they mature. Still, these birds are low-maintenance and easy to care for, and provide tasty meat for the family.

So, they’re worth keeping and raising.

But if you’re looking for a dual-purpose breed that provides more eggs and flavorful meat, check out this next duck species!

READ NEXT: Saxony Ducks – The Ultimate Saxony Breed Guide

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