Puddle ducks are typically birds of fresh, shallow marshes and rivers rather than of large lakes and bays. They are good divers, but usually feed by dabbling or tipping rather than by submerging. Any duck feeding in croplands will likely be a puddle duck, for most of this group are surefooted and can walk and run well on land. Their diet consists of mostly vegetables.
Often referred to as the "greenhead," the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) has the most extensive breeding range of any duck in North America. Most domestic ducks such as the white ducks found on farms and at many public parks derive their origin from the mallard.
The mallard is a large duck with a stocky body. It is readily identified by its highly iridescent speculum, or wing patch, that is bordered with black and white stripes. It has a whitish tail extending from a glossy black rump; its tail feathers curl up at the tip of the tail. The body is a mixture of chestnut brown and gray feathers. Its bill is yellow and feet are orange. In flight, there is a flash of white in its underwings. As with most ducks, the female of this species has a drab appearance compared to the male. The female mallard is a uniform light brown, but has the distinctive speculum identical to the male.
Mallards are polygamous and peak breeding activity occurs from April through May. Eight to ten eggs are produced once a year. If a nest is destroyed, mallards will re-nest. The eggs are incubated for 24-28 days. Mallard ducklings are precocial, and are dependent on the hen mallard for their care and rearing. After the ducklings have hatched and are dry (within 12 hours) the hen will lead them to water. Mallards can fly at 52 to 60 days old.
Habitat & Behavior
Most mallards occupy extensive wetlands; however, they are very adaptable and can be found wherever their basic requirements of food, a permanent body of water, and cover are met. It is not uncommon to find mallards inhabiting small farm ponds, ditches with water flowing between cultivated fields, streams, and lakes, and ponds in urban areas. The only aquatic habitats they tend to avoid are small fast flowing streams.
The mallard is a dabbling duck as opposed to a diving duck. Dabblers tip their head below the water's surface to feed. Divers take their entire body below water to feed. Mallards feed during the day and typically eat smartweed, rice, lawn clippings, coontail, wild millet, bulrush, burweed, aquatic invertebrates, small fish, and crustaceans..
Mallards can be seen year round in Ohio; however, they are not the same birds throughout the year. Winter residents have migrated south to Ohio from locations farther north.
Research & Surveys
Best Viewing Opportunities
- Mosquito Creek Wildlife Area, Trumbull County
- Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Ottawa County
- Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area, Wyandot County
- Pickerel Creek Wildlife Area, Sandusky County
- Killbuck Marsh Wildlife Area, Wayne & Holmes counties
The mallard is the most recognized and harvested duck in Ohio. While there is moderate production within Ohio, most mallards are migratory through the state. Ohio mallards come primarily from the Great Lakes population and the Province of Ontario with a lesser amount from the mid-continent population of the prairies. Population estimates for 2012 (9.2 million) indicate a 15% increase throughout the breeding range from 2011, 40% above the long-term average (Source: Flyways.us). These numbers suggest harvest and viewing opportunities for 2012 may be higher than 2011.