Mallard Ducks

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that North America had 11.6 million breeding mallards in 2014, making it the most abundant duck. The species has a worldwide distribution and is the ancestor to nearly all domestic duck breeds, with records pre-dating the 12th century in Europe. Yet, as commonplace as a mallard might be, it is hardly ordinary.

– The colors in a mallard’s feathers are formed in two different ways. Pigments (substances found within plants and animals) accumulate in the feather are they grow and account for the color we observe on most body feathers. The iridescent green head and the white-bordered blue speculum (the patch of color on each wing) is the result of a physical phenomenon of light scattering. This shimmery quality of changing color is caused by the feather’s structure. Tiny barbs on the feather’s fringe are flattened and twisted, creating different colors.
– During breeding, a 28-day incubation period of up to 13 eggs is performed exclusively by the female. With only a few brief breaks to feed, she spends almost 23 hours a day on the nest, rising every 35 minutes to turn each egg.
– A mallard can sleep with one eye open! This is because the two hemispheres of a mallard’s brain can sleep independently. When the left eye is closed, the right brain is sleeping but the left brain is awake. The opposite is true of the right eye.
– Ohio mallard hunting season dates vary by zone. The daily limit is four mallards in one day. Go to or pick up a copy of the regulations booklet for more waterfowl hunting information.

Photo & content by Nina Harfmann
This content was originally published in Wild Ohio Magazine. Full of stunning images and information about wildlife, there are 6 issues delivered each year, with one being a calendar.
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