Courtesy of Kenn Kaufman
Common to abundant across most of its range, the Mallard breeds across much of North America, excluding only the most northeastern and southern regions. Nearly all truly wild populations are thought to be migratory, wintering as far south as the Gulf Coast and across much of northern Mexico. Globally, Mallards are found across the entire northern hemisphere, and have been introduced to parts of the southern hemisphere, including Australia and New Zealand.
A legend for the range map to the right can be found here.
Due to their high adaptability, Mallards can be found almost anywhere water is present, from vast prairie wetlands to small city parks. They generally prefer shallow, fresh water. Nesting usually occurs on the ground, but again, the species shows great adaptability, choosing any available nest site.
The Mallard’s diet is as varied as its habitat. Mallards are omnivorous, and make use of many food sources. In the breeding season, insects and aquatic invertebrates are preferred, but throughout the year, Mallards rely upon a variety of vegetation, seeds, and grains. They can be found foraging in fields, woods, lawns, shallow water, and other habitats. In urban areas, human handouts are not only accepted, but often relied upon.
Mallards pair off during fall and winter, and breeding begins in early springtime. The female chooses the nest site and takes total responsibility for incubating the eggs, while the male can generally be found keeping watch nearby. The female raises the ducklings, which may number a dozen or more. The hen and her chicks leave the nest for water within about 24 hours of hatching, and ducklings can feed themselves immediately. Ducklings remain with the mother hen until shortly after they can fly, usually about eight weeks.
Nearly all wild Mallards are thought to be at least short-distance migrants. They are a hardy species, often late to depart in winter, and early to arrive in spring. Many Mallards winter around the Gulf of Mexico, but they can be found in winter almost anywhere with open water.