Conservation status Fairly widespread in Mexico and locally in the southwestern U.S., but total population is probably under 80,000. A warming and drying climate throughout most of its range is likely to have a severe impact in reducing its available habitat.
Family Ducks and Geese
Habitat Mostly around shallow freshwater marshes of lakes and ponds, also along slow-moving lowland rivers and in irrigated farm land.
This duck of the Southwest and Mexico is a very close relative of the Mallard, and was classified as just a subspecies of that species from 1983 to 2020. New research suggests that it is just as distinct as two other Mallard relatives, the American Black Duck and Mottled Duck, so now the Mexican Duck is classified as a full species again. Its main population is in west-central Mexico, far south of the U.S. border, but it is locally common from central and southeastern Arizona to western and southern Texas.

Feeding Behavior

Forages in water by dabbling, submerging head and neck, or up-ending, rarely by diving. Forages on land by grazing, plucking seeds, or grubbing for roots.


Usually 5 – 9. Whitish to gray to olive-buff, unmarked. Incubation is by female only, about 28 days. When leaving the nest during incubation, the female will cover the eggs with down.


Leave nest within a day after hatching, are led to water by female. Young are tended by the female but feed themselves. Age at first flight 52-60 days. Probably 1 brood per year, perhaps rarely 2.


Omnivorous. The majority of the diet is plant material, including seeds, stems, and roots of a wide variety of different plants, including sedges, grasses, smartweeds, and many others; also various kinds of waste grain. Also eats insects, crustaceans, mollusks, tadpoles, frogs, earthworms, and sometimes small fish. Young ducklings may eat mostly aquatic insects.


Pairs may form many months before nesting activity begins. Timing of nesting season may vary, depending on local rains and water conditions. The male stays with the female at least until incubation of the eggs has begun. Nest: Female seeks and chooses site for nest. Site is often more than 50 yards away from the nearest water, usually on the ground in an open meadow but surrounded by concealing vegetation. Nest is shallow bowl of plant material, lined with down.

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

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

Download Our Bird Guide App


Not truly migratory, but performs seasonal movements in limited local areas. Flocks gather at permanent lakes and rivers during dry seasons, with the birds then spreading out into other areas during rainy seasons.

See a fully interactive migration map for over 450 bird species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

Learn more

Songs and Calls

Similar to Mallard. Male gives a thin rreeb; female makes loud quacking, like barnyard ducks.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.