- Common Name (English): Mallard
- Scientific Name: Anas platyrhynchos
The generic name Anas, meaning duck, comes from Latin. The specific name platyrhynchos is a portmanteau of the Greek words "platÿs" (broad) and "rhÿgchos" (beak).
The mallard is the best known representative of the genus. All over the world, it has adapted to thrive in different ecosystems, and often been tamed and bred. Though there are some indications that the species may be native to Asia, it is extremely common in Europe. Mallards have long been admired by humans for their striking plumage, which is particularly colourful in males. Whilst they have thrived in areas of human habitation, their tendency is to avoid humans, especially when found in ecosystems far from urban areas.
Distribution and habitat
The mallard usually inhabits wetlands or relatively still bodies of water; however, it nests far from them, usually in vacant plots or even in trees. Mallards usually spend time in bodies of water such as ponds, whether natural or manmade. These gregarious birds enjoy an active social life, often sharing the space with other waterfowl, whom they tolerate reasonably well.
They are primarily herbivorous, eating algae, aquatic plants, seeds and berries. However, they have been known to supplement their diets with worms, molluscs, larvae, crustaceans, frogs, tadpoles and even eels, searching for food on land and in estuaries, in ponds and among crops.
During the breeding season, the female usually lays 3 to 12 eggs, which she incubates alone. These eggs normally hatch between 15 and 27 days. The ducklings are small and yellow with brown spots, and can fend for themselves practically from the day they hatch.
Mallard chicks fly the nest at less than 3 months old, tending to move on to other areas, and establish families of their own. Note that thanks to their ability to adapt readily to areas inhabited by humans, the mallard population is reasonably stable, and even increasing in some parts, so they do not enjoy any sort of special protection.
The Mallard is a migratory bird, but their migratory behaviour depends on where they are. Populations in northern Europe usually migrate to northern Africa in the winters; however, those nearer the Mediterranean tend to be more sedentary and make shorter, more local journeys. In Central Europe, though – for example, in countries like Luxembourg, where there is a relatively mild climate – individuals can be found year round.