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Mallard v1

Malcolm the Mallard

by Peter Hanscomb

Say hello to Malcolm the Mallard – Anas platyrhynchos


The mallard , dabbling duck can be found throughout the Americas, Europe and North Africa and has been introduced to New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. The male birds or drakes have a glossy green head and are grey on wings and belly while the females called hens or ducks are a mottled brown colour all over. Adaptable to almost any wetland environment the Mallard is not only  one of the most recognisable ducks , it’s also one of the most widespread. Unlike many waterfowl, mallards have benefited from human alterations to the world. They are a common sight in urban parks, lakes, ponds, and other man-made water features in the regions they inhabit, and are often tolerated or encouraged in human habitat due to their placid nature towards humans and their colourful markings.



The mallard is omnivorous with the majority of the mallard’s diet made up of invertebrates such as  beetles, flies, lepidopterans, dragonflies, and caddisflies, crustaceans, worms, together with varieties of seeds and plant matter.Plants generally make up the larger part of a bird’s diet, especially during autumn migration and in the winter, however they have also been known to eat frogs and small birds.


Mallards usually start to  form pairs in October and November and remain together until the female lays eggs at the start of the nesting season, which is usually around the end of March. During the mating season both male and female birds can become extremely aggressive, especially the male and will attack other birds to defend their territory and mate. Once the eggs are laid the males usually then join up with other males and leave the females to raise the chicks on her own

The female normally lays between 7-12 eggs. Incubation takes around a month and then the ducklings take another 2 months  to develop to a point where they can fly as juveniles. As soon as they are hatched they are capable of swimming and normally stay close to their mother for protection.


Mallard duckling


Mallards of all ages are prayed on by large fish such as pike, Domestic and feral cats , the Red Fox  and large birds of prey like the peregrine falcon. During the breeding season the ducks can be attracted and killed by protective swans. The Mallards predation-avoidance behavior of sleeping with one eye open, allowing one brain hemisphere to remain aware while the other half sleeps is believed to be widespread among birds in general.



Protected by The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981

The mallard has been rated as a species of least concern on the Red List of Endangered Species due to an increasing population worldwide. While most are not domesticated, mallards are so successful at coexisting in human regions that the main conservation risk they pose comes from the loss of genetic diversity among a region’s traditional ducks once humans and mallards colonise an area. Mallards are very adaptable, being able to live and even thrive in urban areas which may have supported more localised, sensitive species of waterfowl before development.



Full name,               Anas platyrhynchos

Length                      50-60cm

Wingspan                Upto 95cm

Weight                      750-1300g

Diet                            Omnivorous

Life expectancy      3 to 4 years

UK population         60-140,000 breeding pairs




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