Mallard ducks are high on the list for recognizable ducks species. They can be found throughout North America, Europe, parts of Asia, and have been introduced to other parts of the world. They are popular with hunters as well; according to Hinterland Who’s Who over 50% of all ducks hunted in Canada are mallards.
Finding Mallard Ducks
Where there’s water, chances are there are mallards.
This duck is not too picky when it comes to habitats. I’ve personally spotted them in both fresh and saltwater; in peaceful creeks and muddy ditches; in parks with ponds and in people’s front yards. Nowhere seems to be off-limits. I’ve even come across a mallard hen and her ducklings in the middle of the woods, further away from the nearest water source than I would have expected.
Mallards are known as ‘dabbling ducks’, meaning they feed by skimming the water surface with their beak and submerging their heads to find food. They will also graze on land.
If you’re going to feed mallards at the pond, please feed them good foods, such as chopped lettuce, green peas, bird seed, or food specifically formulated for wild ducks. While it’s tempting to feed them bread and other junky foods, it’s not good for them. Always make sure you are not overfeeding – leftover food can pollute the water.
Domestication of the Mallard Duck
Mallards have been domesticated for a hot minute. In Southeast Asia they have been domesticated somewhere between 2000 – 4000 years depending on your source, and in Europe since around the 12th century.
The appearance of a domestic duck will vary based on purpose. Some are bred not only be larger, but to reach that adult size quickly so that they can be sent off to the dinner table quickly. Others are bred for egg production. Either way, you’re unlikely to see a picture of one in your bird guide.