Mallard - Early Childhood Edition


mallard Anas platyrhynchos


The Basics
The mallard is a bird.
The male mallard has shiny green feathers on the head, a white ring of feathers around its neck, gray body feathers, brown chest feathers and violet-blue feathers in a patch on each wing. The female mallard has a brown-and-cream speckled appearance. Both the male and the female have a white tail, orange feet and a yellow bill.
A mallard is 20 to 28 inches long and weighs two to three pounds. The wingspan is 32 to 37 inches.
Some mallards live year-round in Illinois. Other mallards fly into Illinois from farther north in the fall to overwinter or fly through Illinois to overwinter farther south. These birds are mainly from Canada. In the spring, these ducks return to places farther north than Illinois to nest, although the year-round resident mallards do nest in Illinois. Mallards live in or around marshes, ditches, swamps, grain fields, ponds, rivers and lakes. This species is common in cities, too.
Aquatic plants, corn and other waste grains, grasses, seeds, small aquatic animals, earthworms, acorns and insects make up its diet.
Mallards form mating pairs in the fall but do not mate until spring. Nesting in Illinois takes place from April through July. Seven to 16 blue-green eggs per clutch are laid in a nest on the ground. The nest is lined with feathers, grasses and leaves. The female incubates the eggs. Incubation lasts 23 to 29 days. The female leads the ducklings to water within 24 hours after hatching.
Food Source:
Hawks, eagles, American crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos), American mink (Neovison vison), foxes, coyotes (Canis latrans), raccoons (Procyon lotor), striped skunks (Mephitis mephitis), snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentina), snakes, large fishes, cats (Felis catus), dogs (Canis familiaris), owls and gulls are among the animals that eat mallards, their eggs and their ducklings. Humans eat mallards, too.
What Else?
Mallards are puddle ducks or dabbling ducks. These birds strain water for food at the surface and also “tip up” by submerging the front half of the body, sticking the tail toward the sky, to be able to reach other food items that are deeper in the water.
The female mallard makes a “quack” sound.
Mallards are unable to fly for about a month in late summer when they lose their flight feathers. They can fly again once the replacement feathers grow.
Mallards have been known to build nests in trees, on rooftops, in parking lots, near swimming pools, in window wells and in other locations.
In the winter, these birds fly away from water to feed in the early morning, return to the water to rest in the middle of the day, fly out again in the late afternoon to feed and return to the water to spend the night.
Can I Hunt It?
The mallard may be legally hunted in Illinois following all relevant laws and regulations. You can find general information about waterfowl hunting in Illinois here. Specific hunting information about the mallard is included in the Illinois Digest of Waterfowl Hunting Regulations. A list of public hunting areas is available here.

 Educator Suggestions

​1. Watch the Mallard video podcast with the students. Discuss with them the information shown above and in the video.
2. Mallards are found throughout the state including, in urban areas. They are generally active daily during the time students are in school so observing them with the students may be a viable option, if you have a pond or lake nearby. Show photos/illustrations to the students before you take a field trip so that they know what birds they are looking for before they arrive at their destination. Have the students quietly watch the birds and observe their behaviors. When you arrive back at school, conduct a discussion about the observations. Prompt the students for any questions that they may have about the ducks. These questions can be used for further learning about mallards. PLEASE NOTE: Mallards in urban areas are often accustomed to people being near them and can act tame. Do not allow the students to touch or feed these wild animals. Be especially cautious if ducklings are present.
3. Use the information presented above and the following suggestions to help you meet some of the Benchmarks of the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards. Please do not be limited by these suggestions or by these Standards. The information can be used in several subject areas.
Goal 11, Learning Standard 11.A: Develop beginning skills in the use of science and engineering practices, such as observing, asking questions, solving problems and drawing conclusions.
Have the students develop questions about mallards that were not answered in the text or video. Let them build models or perform experiments to represent their ideas. If applicable, let them test the ideas and collect data. Involve math and computational skills. Describe the results and provide explanations.
Students want to know how mallards keep warm in winter.
Let the students predict how they think these ducks may stay warm. Look at photos of mallards or observe these birds. Look at their bill and feet as well as their body. Talk about the feathers that cover the body, including down feathers, and how they can trap heat and repel water. How are the duck’s feet and bill different than the rest of the body? How might they keep these body parts warm? Do they need to keep them warm? How can behaviors keep you warm? See if the students can test some of their ideas. Use videos, books or ask an expert to find answers, if needed.
Goal 12, Learning Standard 12.A: Understand that living things grow and change.
Goal 12, Learning Standard 12.B: Understand that living things rely on the environment and/or others to live and grow.
Use the images from this month’s Kids for Conservation® edition (regular version), the video podcast about the Mallard and, if they went on a field trip to see mallards, their observations about mallards to show students some of the aspects of the life of this species. Talk about what mallards need to survive and where they might obtain those items. Ask them to imagine life as a mallard and compare it to their daily life as a human. How are they the same? How are they different? How do humans affect mallards? How do mallards affect humans? 
Goal 13, Learning Standard 13.A: Understand rules to follow when investigating and exploring.
Goal 13, Learning Standard 13.B: Use tools and technology to assist with science and engineering investigations.
See the Field Trip Tips Web page for information about taking students on a field trip.
Depending on what questions the students develop and test, they may need to use scientific and technological tools to help them discover the answers.