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Drake Mallard
Male: Metallic green head, brown breast, body is mostly grey.
Duck Mallard
Female: Mottled brown.

Mallards are the most numerous wildfowl in Britain and can be found almost anywhere there is water, so it is not surprising that most people are familiar with it.

The male, or drake, is very recognisable nearly all year round by its metallic green head, brown breast that is delineated from the head by a white neck ring, grey body and black tail. During the summer months, June to September, the drake moults and looks very similar to the female - this is called "eclipse" plumage - and offers better camouflage until their flight feathers have been fully replaced.

The female, or duck, is mainly brown, with blackish mottling and has a plain buff coloured head with a dark line through the eye.

Both sexes have a purple-blue speculum. Further, they both have orange-red legs and a yellow-olive coloured bill, but the duck's bill is much duller.

Juveniles are similar to the female, but duller.

Drake Wings
Drake Wings
Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake

Scientific Name Anas platyrynchos
Length 50-62 cm  (20-24")
Wing Span 81-98 cm  (32-40")
Weight 850-1500 g  (2-3½lb)
Breeding Pairs 115000
Present All Year
Status Amber

Distribution map - when and where you are most likely to see the species.


The duck has a loud "quack", while the drake's call is a softer, higher-pitched "quork".


© Jean Roché,

© Jean Roché,


Mallards are dabbling ducks, so they forage near the water surface or upend to reach food deeper down, but also feed off the ground. The diet comprises cereals, plants and invertebrates, and less often fish.

They will visit gardens for these foods.


The Mallards build a nest, from leaves and grasses, among dense vegetation.

Mallard eggs are smooth and waxy, and pale green or blue-green. They are about 57 mm by 41 mm. The female incubates the eggs herself. The nestlings are precocial, and when newly hatched the hen waits until their feathers have dried before taking them out on to the water.

Breeding Starts Clutches Eggs Incubation (days) Fledge (days)
March 1-2 7-16 28-29 50-60


British Mallards are resident and may be either sedentary or migratory. Many Icelandic and northern European birds spend the winter in the UK.


Mallards may be hunted September to January, but are protected during the breeding season. Despite this, the non-breeding population has declined moderately over the last 25 years and so they are now an amber list species of conservation concern.