The mallard is one of the most familiar species of duck, worldwide. It is a classic marsh duck (dabbling duck), feeding by dabbling and upending from the surface of the water, in contrast to bay ducks (diving ducks) such as goldeneye, bufflehead and scaup.
The mallard is of almost year-round occurrence in our area, though with a strong peak of occurrence in late spring. This may be a spring migratory pulse, but the odd feature of the observations is rare appearance every month except October. Indeed, fall migration is curiously under-represented, despite rare events such as 10 ducks seen along the Trent on 05 November 2002, Late 2019 through late summer 2020 may have been an exception, with repeat appearances of 5 mallards, which may have formed two pairs in spring and nested nearby along the Trent waterway.We have seen the mallard at many places around the world! In many of them, the mallard is ubiquitous. From Amsterdam and England to Thunder Bay, British Columbia and Beijing, there are these colourful, generally placid dabblers, apparently spread clear across the northern hemisphere. Closer to home they may be found at Port Credit or Presqu'ile or Kingston harbour, and north and west past Trent Hills to Rice Lake and Baptiste Lake (west of Bancroft). And so on.
At Presqu'ile park (LaForest, 1993, pp.64-65) the mallard is a common migrant, March to May and August to November, as well as a common summer resident. Further north and west, the mallard is common in the Kawarthas, and domesticated individuals may stay into winter along the river in Peterborough (Sadler, 1983, pp.46-47). Being so familiar to hunter and cottager alike, there must be many local tales of this handsome, distinctive duck.
In upstate New York, the rising prominence of the mallard as a breeding species was basically a 20th century phenomenon (Levine, 1988, p.155). Bent (1923) describes many observations of mallards, an early spring migrant, in decades before the species' rise to prominence. The mallard (Cadman et al., 1987, pp.72-73) also shows a rapid rise across Ontario since 1950. The young are often on the nest from mid-May to late June, but may be hard to spot. The later edition of the provincial bird breeding atlas (Cadman et al., 2007, pp.78-79) afirms the mallard to be the most abundant (and visible) duck in Ontario, and the North American population has been estimated at above 10 million.
Bent,AC (1923) Life Histories of North American Waterfowl. Dover Publications, Inc., reprint of Smithsonian Institution Bull. 126, in 2 volumes in 1962 / as 1 volume in 1987, 244+314pp. Volume 1, pp.34-47.
Cadman,MD, Eagles,PFJ and Helleiner,FM (1987) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario. Federation of Ontario Naturalists and Long Point Bird Observatory, published by University of Waterloo Press, 617pp.
Cadman,MD, Sutherland,DA, Beck,GG, Lepage,D and Couturier,AR (editors) (2007) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005. Bird Studies Canada,Environment Canada,Ontario Field Ornithologists, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Ontario Nature, 706pp.
LaForest,SM (1993) Birds of Presqu'ile Provincial Park. Friends of Presqu'ile Park / Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 436pp.
Levine,E (editor) (1998) Bull's Birds of New York State. Comstock Publishing Associates, Cornell University Press, revised version, 622pp., pp.171-172.
Sadler,D (1983) Our Heritage of Birds: Peterborough County in the Kawarthas. Peterborough Field Naturalists / Orchid Press, Peterborough, ON, 192pp.