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When Do Mallard Ducks Lay Eggs? Mallard Nesting Explored

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mallard duck eating

Encountering ducks in the wild is a delightful experience. You can watch them swim, dive, or even offer them some seed. This experience is even better when mallards have ducklings, which happens in the summer season. 

When do mallard ducks lay eggs? Once they reach maturity at four to seven months, mallards will start laying eggs. This usually occurs between mid-March to the end of July, and it takes two weeks for all the eggs in the clutch to be laid.

hummingbird divider Mallard Duck Nesting Habits

Female mallards will build a nest¹ from leaves and grasses. Then, it’s lined with down plucked from her own breast. The eggs are laid between mid-March and the end of July. The normal clutch is around 13 eggs, each laid at one- to two-day intervals.

Embryo development doesn’t occur until incubation, so the weather conditions don’t affect the clutch during the laying period. Once incubation begins, the female will sit on her eggs throughout the day for about 25 to 29 days. The eggs will be covered in down when she leaves, which is typically only to feed for an hour in the morning and evening.

With each egg, the female will cover the nest to protect it from predators. Sometimes, mallards create nests in less-than-ideal locations, such as high-traffic areas.

Once the clutch is laid, the male’s role in the process is over. He may stay potent in order to replace a clutch if something goes wrong, but he’ll eventually join other males to molt. Some groups of males will mate forcibly with females, but this phase is typically short-lived.

mallard duck nesting
Image Credit: Bryliakov Sergei, Shutterstock

What to Do If You Find a Nest

Mallards usually nest near water, which can result in nests in boathouses, wood piles, hay stacks, roof gardens, old nests from other birds, or flowerpots. Town ponds with abundant food supplies often attract mallards, which creates competition and harassment within the population.

Mallards are a federally protected species, so we should never move or disturb their nests. The best solution to protect a nest in a bad area is to rope off the nesting area, put up a sign, and educate others about avoiding the nest.

If you notice a mallard in the early stages of nesting, such as digging a hole or gathering materials without any laid eggs, you can deter her by removing the nesting materials. She may seek out other places to build a nest. If there are eggs, avoid disturbing the nest.

duck protecting its eggs in the nest
Image Credit: ivabalk, Pixabay

What to Do with Hatchlings

On occasion, mallards who nest in high-traffic areas may need help with hatchlings¹.  You can create a safe path from the nest to nearby water sources. If tiny ducklings are born in high areas, such as balconies or rooftop gardens, they may struggle to follow their mother.

Here’s how you can safely help:

  • Prepare a pet carrier with a bed sheet. Avoid pet carriers with openings that are large enough for the ducklings to get out.
  • Get a butterfly net with mesh and two umbrellas.
  • Once the eggs hatch, separate the hen from her ducklings. She will be distressed.
  • Herd the ducklings into a corner with the sheet. Use the net to capture each duckling and put them in the pet carrier. Try to gather the ducklings quickly.
  • Take the ducklings outside in a safe area and leave it on the ground with the door closed. Once the hen finds her ducklings, you can open the door to let them out. Be sure to back away from the area to give them space.

Sometimes, simply creating a safe path is all you need to do. If you see a hen and ducklings trying to cross a road, contact local police for help directing traffic to allow them to cross safely.

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Mallards with ducklings are a beautiful sight. If you come across a nest of ducklings, the best thing you can do is stay out of the way. These birds are federally protected, so it’s illegal to disturb a nest or its inhabitants.

Featured Image Credit: Capri23auto, Pixabay

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.