The Northern Mallard

Mallards are large, striking looking ducks from the northern hemisphere that were introduced to Australia during the mid 1850s. Their numbers increased dramatically during the mid 1900s and are continuing to increase.


Northern Mallard - male - Kim WormaldNorthern Mallard – male


Male mallards are unmistakable with their iridescent dark green heads, orange legs, curled tails and yellow bills with black tips. They have a white collar separating their heads from their chestnut-brown breasts and greyish backs. The bird above has such a beady little eye that seems to be set quite high on its head.

They are about 60cm in length and weigh 1.5kg. As dabbling ducks they forage on aquatic vegetation that they often reach by upending themselves in shallow waters; they supplement greenery with occasional insects.


Northern Mallard - female - Kim WormaldNorthern Mallard – female


Female mallards are more subtly coloured but their distinctive bills with a dark central patch and their orange legs distinguish them from Pacific Black Ducks. I was puzzled by the dark green feathers on the head of the bird above and wondered initially if it was a young male or a hybrid. Mallards and black ducks are related species and can interbred creating odd-looking, pale blackies that generally have orange legs.

Happy birding, Kim


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8 comments to The Northern Mallard

  • Anthea Fleming

    In NZ wild Mallard were deliberately introduced for hunting as ‘better’ than Grey/Black Duck – larger and flight a bit slower so easier to hit. Many Mallard in Australia are derived from domestic and pet birds with ‘wild’ colouring – they tend to large size and poor flight. Many are pale-coloured or piebald. They are still very undesirable.

  • Hi Kim, very good captures, Canard bien différent de ceux originaires de France, en particulier la petitesse de l’oeil en effet.

  • My nasty cynical bitter and twisted self is almost certain the the mallard was introduced here for better hunting. Hiss and spit. Another beautiful bird which has settled into this country perhaps too well for our native species. Our fault not its.

    • lirralirra

      If only we could wind the clock back and take way more care with what was brought here including foxes, blackberries, rabbits, cane toads, cats (people could have pet quolls instead) and all the other critters we’ve introduced that are decimating our native flora and fauna.

  • Anthea Fleming

    Mallard were introduced to New Zealand – and as a result, the native Grey Duck (=Black Duck)Anas superciliosus has been almost hybridized out of existence. In 1990 we saw only one group of pure-bred Grey Duck on a remote mountain lake. Everywhere else they were completely replaced by hybrids.
    Mallards in Australia should be viewed a serious threat to native Black Duck.

    • lirralirra

      That’s awful Anthea. I wonder if there are any remaining pure-bred Greys. I was planning on writing more about the hybrid issue but I caught the bug that’s doing the rounds and wasn’t well enough to sit at the computer for long. Thank you for raising the issue. Kim

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