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Wood Ducks and Mallards are both dabbling waterfowl with many similarities. For example, being dabbling ducks, they both feed in the same way. Instead of diving underwater for their food, Wood Ducks and Mallards stick their heads beneath the surface of the water, and keep their feet above, as they search for food.
But they aren’t exactly the same. In fact, they’re easy to tell apart once you know what to look for. Though both ducks are beautiful, there are differences in their appearance, they have different calls, and they behave differently. Let’s take a closer look at each one!
Wood ducks are known for their striking appearance. Male Wood Ducks have a green crested head, while the rest of their body is iridescent, chestnut, and green. Their plumage is always intricately patterned.
Female Wood Ducks are not as colorful, but they have an elegant profile, and delicate white rings around their eyes.
Wood Ducks have strong claws, which allow them to perch on tree branches.
As their name suggests, Wood Ducks primarily live near woodlands. They can be found in wooded swamps, marshes, streams, and beaver ponds. Generally, Wood Ducks are happy in wet areas that have trees.
Wood Ducks are relatively antisocial. They prefer to remain in small groups of 20 or fewer, and they tend to stick with other Wood Ducks.
The female Wood Duck nests in tree cavities, up to 460 feet away from the water. When the eggs hatch, they drop down safely from heights of up to 50 feet. The female will call to her ducklings from the water, but she will not assist them on their hike to reach her.
As cavity nesters, Wood Ducks take to nest boxes placed on the margin of ponds and lakes very naturally. However, if the nest boxes are placed too closely, the female Wood Duck will lay her eggs in the nests of other females. This can lead to unsuccessful incubation, otherwise known as “nest dumping.”
Mallard ducks are the most iconic and common ducks in the northern hemisphere. From their typical appearance to their distinctive “quack”, Mallards are easy to spot.
Male Mallard ducks have a dark green iridescent head and a white ring around their collar. They have a bright yellow bill, brown breast, and black rear. Both sexes have a distinct, white-bordered rectangular blue patch, known as a speculum, on their wings.
Female Mallard ducks are mottled brown, and their bill is orange and brown.
Mallard ducks are incredibly adaptable. They can live in any wetland habitat, be it natural or artificial, and are quite happy to dwell in lakes, ponds, marshes, and rivers. They’re often found in suburban parks.
Mallard ducks are tame, often more so in cities, where they receive a lot of interaction from humans. Due to their adaptable nature, Mallards are considered an invasive species in some regions.
Unlike Wood Ducks, Mallards are very sociable birds. They often group with other Mallards and dabbling ducks.
The female Mallard Duck likes to lay her eggs near water, usually in depressions in the ground, under vegetation cover, or in a natural hole in a tree.
Overall, Wood Ducks are smaller than Mallards, while Mallards have a very distinct yellow bill. Wood Ducks are more brightly colored and intricately patterned than Mallards, and they prefer to be near trees as well as water.
Another interesting difference between the two breeds is that Wood Ducks are known for regularly producing more than one brood per year.
The Wood Ducks’ strong claws give them the ability to climb trees, and grip bark and tree branches as they perch on them, while Mallards are highly adaptable and social waterfowl.
Featured Image Credit: Left: Mallard Duck – Ralphs_Fotos , Pixabay, Right: Wood Duck – FerGalindo980, Pixabay
Cheryl is a freelance content and copywriter from the United Kingdom. Her interests include hiking and amateur astronomy but focuses her writing on gardening and photography. If she isn't writing she can be found curled up with a coffee and her pet cat.
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