At a Glance

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.
Duck-like Birds, Surface Feeding Ducks
Low Concern
Coasts and Shorelines, Freshwater Wetlands, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers, Saltwater Wetlands
Florida, Plains, Southeast, Texas
Direct Flight

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

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.


21" (53 cm). Both sexes look like a darker version of female Mallard, but bill is bright yellow (male) or dull yellow (female); blue wing patch (speculum) lacks broad white borders. At a distance, looks much like American Black Duck (rare in deep south), but body paler, head more buff. In the southwest, from southern and western Texas to Arizona, compare to Mexican Duck.
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Mallard or Herring Gull
Brown, Green, Orange, Tan, Yellow
Wing Shape
Broad, Pointed
Tail Shape
Rounded, Short, Square-tipped

Songs and Calls

A loud quack, like that of a Mallard.
Call Pattern
Flat, Simple
Call Type


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.



8-12, sometimes 5-13. Whitish to pale olive. Generally fewer eggs in later clutches. Incubation is by female only, 24-28 days.


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.

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.


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


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.

Climate Vulnerability

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.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Mottled Duck. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Mottled Duck

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.