Mallard ducks are undoubtedly among the most popular duck breeds in America, not to mention worldwide.
While the mallard is an individual breed of wild duck, people originally used the name to refer to wild drakes.
Today, the word “mallard” is still used to refer to wild drakes. As such, this article will explore the comparable wild duck breeds.
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Are There Different Breeds of Mallard Ducks?
To further understand the idea of there being different types of mallard ducks, it is important to understand the concept of reproduction in ducks — that is, breeding.
When mallard drakes (Anas platyrhynchos) reproduce with hens from other duck breeds, they produce hybrids or crossbreeds. The resulting ducklings are not “mallard duck breeds” as they are only 50% mallard.
However, when mallard drakes and hens reproduce, the product is a purebred mallard duckling.
As such, these ducklings are the only birds that you can rightfully refer to as mallard ducks since they are from two mallard parent birds.
Simply put, “mallard duck breeds,” therefore, only refer to purebred mallards, which in this case are the famous mallard ducks only.
With that in mind, this article focuses on other wild duck breeds that are often termed “mallards.” Read on to learn with us about several mallard-like ducks.
Keep in mind that most of the wild duck breeds in this roundup share a striking resemblance to either the renowned mallard drake or hen.
Let’s start with the mallard duck.
The mallard duck is among the most popular dabbling wild ducks in North America.
Mallard drakes are some of the most recognizable ducks in the world, thanks to their shimmering green heads and yellow beaks.
What’s more, drakes feature distinctive brown plumage with white stripes on either side.
Females, on the other hand, have less vibrant colors with light brown plumage and grayish-green heads.
That being said, both sexes have speculums — blue patches on secondary wing feathers that are visible when the ducks are in flight.
And though they are wild ducks, they are regulars in urban parks or backyards where keepers raise them as pets.
You can find mallards in lakes, ponds, and wetlands where they feed on a wide range of small animals and plants.
Breeders believe that mallard ducks are the ancestors of all domesticated ducks except the Muscovy duck.
This can be confusing since most of the duck breeds domesticated today do not share physical characteristics with the mallards.
For instance, the domestic ducks also known as domestic mallards are a domesticated subspecies of the mallard, commonly raised for eggs, meat, and feathers.
Other duck breeds that may have the mallard gene include:
- Rouen ducks
- Swedish blue ducks
- Pekin ducks
As earlier mentioned, the word “mallard” was and is still used to refer to wild drakes. The mallards’ Spanish and French names are “Ánade azulón” and “Canard colvert,” respectively.
The oldest mallard documented was a drake. The bird was at least 27 years, 7 months old at death because it was banded in 1981 in Louisiana and died in 2008 in Arkansas.
American Black Duck
The American black duck is a large duck breed boasting an identical bulky body profile to the mallards. They have rounded, gray-brown heads and thick bills that are ideal for dabbling.
The American black duck is native to eastern North America and often flocks with mallards.
However, upon close examination, you will notice the olive-yellow beak, grayish face, and chocolate-brown flanks of the American black duck.
What’s more, female American black ducks tend to be paler than drakes.
Like their mallard counterparts, their speculum has a shimmering purple hue, while their underwings are bright white.
Unlike other duck breeds that dive when foraging, American black ducks tip downwards and forage invertebrates, aquatic plants, and small fish. You can also find them in fields feeding on waste grain.
You can easily find the American black duck in eastern wetlands. They nest and forage in marshes, protected pools, and bays during winter and migration.
Controlled hunting has helped stabilize the American black ducks’ numbers after coming close to extinction in the mid-twentieth century. Unfortunately, habitat loss is still a problem threatening these ducks’ existence.
American black ducks also go by the name “Ánade Sombrío” in Spanish and “Canard noir” in French.
The oldest American black duck was found in 1978 in Delaware. It was banded in Pennsylvania in 1952, making it 26 years and 5 months old at the time.
If the northern shovelers’ bills don’t catch your attention, the drake’s contrasting color palette will, with its shimmering green head, rusty sides, and bright white chest.
The ducks are equally catchy with their giant orange feet and spotty brown plumage.
The name “shoveler” comes from the breed’s shovel-shaped beak that differentiates it from a myriad of other dabbling ducks.
Its medium-sized body has a slightly elevated rear that sits somewhat higher out in ponds or pools and also sets them apart from other wild duck breeds.
Both sexes weigh between 14 and 29 ounces and have wingspans ranging between 27 and 33 inches.
While breeding drake shovelers have bold rust, blue, or white plumage, their white chest and lower sides are their most remarkable features.
On the other hand, female shovelers and ducklings have mottled brown plumage with a pale blue hue on their wings.
As far as behavior goes, you will find northern shovelers dabbling in shallow pools foraging seeds and invertebrates from the wetlands.
Their habitat includes lakes, rice fields, coastal marshes, sewage lagoons, and flooded fields. They will also nest along the grassy areas neighboring the wetlands.
People also refer to northern shovelers as “Canard Souchet” in French and “Cuchara Común” in Spanish.
When forced out of their nests, female northern shovelers defecate on their eggs to deter predators.
Mottled ducks are reminiscent of female American black ducks or mallards, as far as plumage goes.
Like the mallards, mottled ducks are relatively large ducks with robust bodies, short necks and tails, and averagely long beaks.
Mottled duck drakes are considerably larger than the females as seen below.
|Mottled duck drake||30.9-43.8 ounces||32.7-34.3 inches||19.7-22.5 inches|
|Mottled duck female||24.7-40.6 ounces||31.5-32.72 inches||18.5-21.0 inches|
Both sexes have buff and brown plumage that harmoniously blends well with their rich yellow bills and black gapes.
Though both ducks have yellow beaks, the female’s beak has a greenish hue that makes it almost orangeish, and it may come with or without black markings.
Similarly, the sides and backs of both sexes have a rich brown plumage that is streaked with buff. Their faces and throats, however, lack streaking.
Pure breed mottled ducks have dark tails while crossbreeds, especially the ones with mallard genes, have white on their tail.
Like other dabbling ducks, mottled ducks spend most of their time foraging in aquatic vegetation.
You will find these wild ducks in freshwater wetlands like flooded fields, lakes, and ponds, among other water bodies.
Mottled ducks are also known as “Ánade Moteado” in Spanish and “Canard brun” in French.
The oldest known mottled duck was 13 years and 7 months old at the time it was shot in Florida, where it had been banded.
Common merganser drakes have clean bodies with slender red beaks and dark green heads.
The females, on the other hand, are elegant-bodied and have cinnamon heads that feature short shaggy crests.
Common mergansers generally have long bodies with thin but pointed wings.
Unlike typical ducks that have wide, flat beaks, common mergansers have narrow and straight bills.
Adult drakes have white bodies with sharp patterns and dark green heads.
Their back is, however, black, while the females and immature common mergansers have gray bodies with cinnamon heads and white chests.
That being said, drakes have a non-breeding plumage that is similar to the females from late summer to mid-autumn.
Both sexes display white patches on their upper wings during flight.
Unlike others in this list, common mergansers dive underwater to forage.
After leaving their nests, females care for their chicks, while drakes form flocks on rivers and reservoirs to feed and court the females during winter.
Similarly, these ducks mix with other diving ducks like goldeneyes during migration.
Lastly, common mergansers live by freshwater lakes and rivers where they nest in tree cavities in northern forests.
You can refer to common mergansers as “Grand Harle” in French or “Serreta Grande” in Spanish.
Gulls follow flocks of foraging common mergansers because they want to steal the ducks’ prey when they surface instead of fishing for theirs. Bald eagles also steal fish from these ducks.
The northern pintails are medium-sized ducks with long tails and necks.
The drakes have dark brown heads and necks, and gray bodies with white breasts and sides.
Females, on the other hand, have buff-colored bodies that are complemented by their light brown necks and heads and white throats and sides.
A breeding drake’s tail is longer and pointier than a female’s and non-breeding drake’s.
In flight, drakes flash a green speculum, while females flash bronzy ones.
You will find northern pintails swimming in small flocks or in pairs while feeding on small fish, insects, crustaceans, and aquatic plants.
These ducks normally breed in northern North America — Alaska to Newfoundland. However, they migrate south to the Great Lakes and coastal areas during the winter months.
Northern pintails are also known as “Canard pilet” in French and “Ánade Rabudo” in Spanish.
The oldest known northern pintail was a male that was at least 22 years and 3 months old at the time of its death in Saskatchewan, Canada in 1994.
The canvasback ducks are large waterfowl with characteristic white bodies and reddish-brown heads. Their excellent diving and swimming make them well-suited for the aquatic life they love.
Breeding drakes boast chestnut necks and heads against black breasts, white bodies, and black rears.
Females, on the other hand, have pale brown plumage. What’s more, their bodies have a grayish hue as opposed to the white body of the drakes.
However, drakes feature brown necks and heads and paler bodies in late summer to early fall. While their eyes are red during this time, females’ eyes are darker.
Like other wild ducks, canvasback ducks love aquatic plants but will also feed on invertebrates such as crustaceans and mollusks.
Lastly, canvasback ducks form large single-species flocks or mix with scaups and redheads during the non-breeding season.
Canvasback ducks go by “Porrón Coacoxtle” in Spanish or “Fuligule à dos blanc” in French.
The species name for canvasback ducks is Valisineria. It is derived from Vallisneria americana, which is wild or water celery. Canvasback ducks like to eat the plant’s stems and buds during the non-breeding season.
What the wood duck lacks in size it makes up for in its phenomenal looks — a glistening green head, white throat, and colorful chest.
While wood ducks are as great at swimming as they are at flying, they often perch in unusually high places or nest in tree trunks.
Like other wild ducks, wood ducks will feed on amphibians and small fish. That said, the birds also happily add insects and plants to their diet.
As is expected in the wild, wood duck drakes are somewhat aggressive during mating season to get the females’ attention.
Lastly, you will find these birds in wooded swamps, beaver ponds, and freshwater marshes throughout North America.
Wood ducks are also known as “Pato Joyuyo” in Spanish and “Canard branchu” in French.
After hatching, ducklings jump from their nests and move toward the water. The mother calls out to them but never helps them find their way to her. The ducklings can jump from as high as 50 feet without getting wounded.
Yellow-billed ducks are native to Africa and are easily distinguishable by their white plumage and lemon-yellow beaks.
Like other wild ducks in this list, yellow-billed ducks often flock in small groups or pairs.
They are also excellent swimmers that often dive into the water for food — that is, aquatic plants, crustaceans, insects, and mollusks.
This diet is facilitated by the freshwater lakes and marshes where they love to live.
Yellow-billed drakes and hens mate for life, with the hens laying between 8 and 10 eggs. Incubation takes 26 to 28 days.
Though the ducks are hunted for their feathers and meat, their populations are stable and found throughout Africa.
Yellow-billed ducks frequent slow-flowing rivers, seasonal or permanent lakes, flooded grasslands, streams, and marshes.
Yellow-billed ducks are nocturnal foragers that feed only at dusk and or after dark.
As their name suggests, Eurasian wigeons hail from Eurasia.
Being migratory birds, Eurasian wigeons fly to the northern hemisphere in summer and the southern hemisphere in winter.
Eurasian wigeons are medium-sized ducks, measuring 16 to 20 inches in body length.
Drakes and hens have brown upper bodies and white lower parts. Their heads are blue-gray and they have white foreheads.
Eurasian wigeons are sociable birds, which is seen in the large flocks they form when foraging aquatic invertebrates and plants or resting near water bodies.
Unfortunately, hunting and habitat loss are the main threats to the Eurasian wigeon’s population.
You can refer to Eurasian wigeons as “Canard siffleur” in French or “Silbón Europeo” in Spanish.
The oldest banded Eurasian wigeon in Europe lived 33 years and 7 months.
Chestnut Teal Ducks
Chestnut teal ducks are small ducks native to New Guinea and Australia.
Drakes average 22 inches in length, while hens grow up to 20 inches long.
As the name suggests, both sexes have chestnut heads and necks, while their bodies have brown plumage.
Though chestnut teal ducks are sociable and often seen in small flocks and pairs, they are also somewhat secretive and shy.
Chestnut teal ducks thrive in different habitats including rivers, wetlands, lakes, and parks. Their diet mostly includes mollusks, aquatic insects, and crustaceans.
There you have it. If you are looking for game meat options you can never go wrong with any of the wild duck breeds included herein.
Similarly, these wild duck breeds are a great option if you are looking to raise a domestic flock. Besides being hardier and more adaptable, wild duck breeds introduce a diverse genetic makeup to your potential flock.