Dabbling duck 18” to 28” long. Drakes are distinguished by their iridescent green head, white neck ring, reddish-brown chest and the shiny violet-blue of the speculum (plumage on the inner portion of the wing). Hens also have this colorful speculum and a white tail, although the rest of the plumage is a much more muted, mottled brown.
Freshwater wetlands, river coves, and ponds, sometimes including “backyard” ponds in urban areas.
Mallards occasionally are year-round Bay residents, but more often winter in the Chesapeake after migrating down the Atlantic Flyway from Quebec in eastern Canada.
Drakes make a “kekking” sound while hens have a loud quack. Listen to a sample (Requires RealPlayer)
The mallard is the most abundant duck in the world, with an estimated 10+ million in North America alone. In the Bay region as elsewhere, mallards often interbreed with domesticated ducks, giving rise to sometimes-startling plumage patterns. While overwintering around the Chesapeake, males and females form breeding pairs that will migrate north together in the spring to nest.
The decoy pictured is from the collection of the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art and was photographed by Middleton Evans. Waterfowl sounds are courtesy of the Macaulay Lab of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.