Photo: Bill Gozansky/Vireo

Priority Bird

Mottled Duck

Anas fulvigula

A close relative of the Mallard, the Mottled Duck is the only dabbling duck specialized for nesting in southern marshes, far to the south of most of its relatives. Unlike most waterfowl, Mottled Ducks are almost never seen in large flocks, generally traveling in pairs or small groups. A major threat to their survival is the release of numerous pet Mallards in Florida and elsewhere in southeast; these feral birds interbreed with Mottled Ducks, diluting the wild population of the latter.
Conservation status Draining and destruction of marshland has had serious impact on total population. Also, a major threat to survival of "pure" stock is interbreeding with Mallards. Although breeding range of wild Mallard does not overlap with that of Mottled Duck, released pets have formed large feral populations of Mallard that have hybridized with Mottleds, especially in Florida.
Family Ducks and Geese
Habitat Marshes. Open marshy country, wet prairies, rice fields. Favors treeless country, wide horizons. In coastal areas, usually found in fresh or brackish ponds adjacent to coast rather than in salt marsh.
A close relative of the Mallard, the Mottled Duck is the only dabbling duck specialized for nesting in southern marshes, far to the south of most of its relatives. Unlike most waterfowl, Mottled Ducks are almost never seen in large flocks, generally traveling in pairs or small groups. A major threat to their survival is the release of numerous pet Mallards in Florida and elsewhere in southeast; these feral birds interbreed with Mottled Ducks, diluting the wild population of the latter.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male and female
  • adult male
  • adult
Feeding Behavior

forages in shallow water, mostly by dabbling with bill at mud just below water's surface, occasionally by up-ending. Young ducklings frequently dive underwater to feed; adults seldom do.


Eggs

8-12, sometimes 5-13. Whitish to pale olive. Generally fewer eggs in later clutches. Incubation is by female only, 24-28 days. Young: leave nest shortly after hatching; female leads them to feeding sites, and young feed themselves. Young can make short flights to escape danger at about 50 days; capable of sustained flight at 60-70 days.


Young

leave nest shortly after hatching; female leads them to feeding sites, and young feed themselves. Young can make short flights to escape danger at about 50 days; capable of sustained flight at 60-70 days.

Diet

omnivorous. Diet includes seeds of aquatic plants and grasses, insects, snails, occasionally small fish. Young ducklings feed almost entirely on insects and other invertebrates.


Nesting

Pairs usually formed in fall, with breeding activity beginning in January. Pairs may prospect for nest sites together, flying low over marsh. Nest site is in dense growth in marsh or prairie, sometimes on canal bank or in agricultural field, usually within 600' of water. Where supported in dense clumps of grass, nest may be several inches above ground. Nest is shallow bowl of grasses, reeds, lined with down and breast feathers.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Mostly non-migratory, but makes local movements in response to changes in habitat conditions. Some birds from western Gulf Coast may move southward along Mexican coast in winter.

Download Our Bird Guide App

Migration

Mostly non-migratory, but makes local movements in response to changes in habitat conditions. Some birds from western Gulf Coast may move southward along Mexican coast in winter.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A loud quack, like that of a Mallard.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

Explore Similar Birds