Bird of the day: Female mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos)


Female mallard standing on dock, looking over her shoulder while wind ruffles her neck feathers
Windswept female mallard duck. Madison, Wis., Nov. 8, 2017.

I saw this female mallard on the same afternoon I saw the white mallard I wrote about yesterday. I loved the way the setting sun played off the various browns in her plumage, and the elegant-casual way the wind ruffled her neck feathers. She reminded me of a model posing in a photo shoot for convertible sports cars or haute couture scarves.

Mallards have wonderfully varied coloring, with different shades of brown in their feathers and beaks that may be anywhere from yellow to black. This one has a beak that’s mostly brown-black, but orange at the tip and where it joins her face. Squint and you might notice the fine line of orange all around the lower edge of her upper beak, as if drawn by a colored pencil.

I learned yesterday that mallards are one of the more recently evolved species of ducks, appearing in the Late Pleistocene, just 11,700 to 126,000 years ago. By comparison, we have evidence for modern humans dating back 200,000 years. They are native to much of the northern hemisphere, which means I saw lots of them as a kid in Western Europe, especially when we lived in Rotterdam. They sure loved the canals!

Check out more duck posts or bird posts.

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: