Mallards are one of the most recognizable birds in the world. They are common throughout the continental United States and are a non-native introduction to the Hawaiian Islands. Mallards are close relatives to the Hawaiian duck, so the two species are able to interbreed. The sharing of genes is putting the rarer Hawaiian duck at risk of being bred out of existence. Right now, the Hawaiian duck is on the endangered species list.
Mallards are often seen swimming around ponds, marshes and even man-made water sources, such as pools and fountains.
Description: Male mallards are exceptionally beautiful and colorful. The males have special plumage during the spring and summer breeding season that helps them attract females. The breeding males have a bright green head and neck. At the base of their neck is a white ring.
Breeding male mallards have a dark brown chest, while the sides and most of the wings are gray. The tail is white and black. The bill is yellow.
In contrast, females and non-breeding males do not have as showy feathers. The females are mottled tan and brown. The head is a lighter tan with dark streaks near the crown and eyes. The bill has an orange tint with dark markings.
Non-breeding males look similar to the females, except that they have a yellowish bill.
All mallards have a blue speculum that is visible when the birds are in flight. The speculum is a distinctive patch of color on the wing near the shoulder which often helps identify the species. On mallards, the speculum is purplish-blue and outlined in white.
Habitat and Range: Mallards can be found throughout the continental United States. Two populations of mallards exist in Hawaii; one group is a winter visitor and the other stays year-round. Look for them near ponds and freshwater wetlands.
Listening for a female mallard may be easier than spotting one, because females call out the familiar "quack" associated with ducks. Male mallards are silent except when fighting another male.
Migratory Birds in a Warming World