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216 illustration


Anas plathyrynchos

A relatively large duck, the mallard is about 55 centimetres long, with a short tail, orange legs and a dark blue speculum (a patch of distinctive colour on the wing) bordered with white. The female is streaked brown with a darker crown and eye-stripe, and a spotted orange bill. Outside the breeding season (in summer) the male is similar, but with uniform yellow bill. During the breeding season, the typical male has a metallic green head, narrow white neck, brownish breast, and a pale grey body.

The most familiar duck and ancestor of the domestic duck, the mallard inhabits wetlands across Europe.

The mallard breeds in spring and builds a nest on land in vegetation. The female cares for the eggs alone. Immediately after emerging from the egg, the young can swim and feed alone following behind the mother. Feathers are shed in late summer, meaning the ducks cannot fly and must hide in the dense vegetation for a month. Mallards spend the winter in large flocks. They feed on water invertebrates and plants, often going out of the water at night to eat grass.

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