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North Carolina Wildlife Species Information

Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos

Mallard Anas platyrhynchos

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 15-16 inches Wingspan: 36 inches
  • Large dabbling duck
  • Blue speculum with white bar along both leading and trailing edges
  • Silvery-white wing linings
  • Juvenile similar to adult female
  • In the southwestern United States the "Mexican Duck", formerly a separate species, has both sexes similar to the female Mallard

Adult male alternate:

  • Alternate plumage worn from fall through early summer
  • Gray back
  • Yellow bill
  • Green head
  • White ring around neck
  • Chestnut breast
  • Gray flanks and upperwing coverts
  • Black undertail coverts contrast with white tail

Adult male basic:

  • Similar to adult female, but usually with chestnut breast and an unmarked yellowish bill

Adult female:

  • Orange bill with black central patch
  • Pale brown face
  • Dark cap and eye line
  • Mottled brown and tan plumage

Similar species:

Adult male in alternate plumage is unmistakable. Females, immature and eclipse-plumage males could be confused with Black Ducks, Gadwalls and Mottled Ducks, but note the blue speculum with white borders on both sides. Gadwalls are also distinctive in their steeper forehead, gray bill with orange edges and white belly patch. Hybrid Mallard x Black Ducks are often seen and are darker than Mallards, with a more purple speculum bordered by white on one or both edges and usually show some traces of the Mallard plumage.

Length and wingspan from: Robbins, C.S., Bruun, B., Zim, H.S., (1966). Birds of North America. New York: Western Publishing Company, Inc.

Above information used courtesy of United States Geological Survey.

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