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Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

The mallard is a medium-sized representative of the Ducks family, Geese order. It weighs between 0.9 and 1.7 kg. Its body length is 56 – 65 cm. It looks like a violet-blue winged mirror with metallic luster, bordered front and back with black and white stripes. In summer, the plumage of both sexes is similar, but males have a yellow-green bill. They fly and take off noisily, their voice is soft, similar to that of domestic ducks.

The mallard nests in Europe, Asia and North America, southern Greenland and northern Africa. It is also found in Bulgaria. It is acclimatized in Australia and New Zealand. It is a permanent species in the southern parts of its areas. In Bulgaria, mallards are found throughout the year, but they are most numerous during their flights in winter.

They inhabit various wetlands, river spillways, freshwater and saltwater reservoirs. They require dense riparian vegetation where they can nest and hide when changing their feathers. They avoid fast flowing water. They are most often found in the flat parts of the country, near the Danube River and along the Black Sea coast. They tolerate human proximity.

The number of wintering populations is estimated at about 9 million in Europe and Asia, and 17-18 million in North America. On average about 100,000 ducks spend the winter in Bulgaria. The mallard is the most numerous species of duck in Bulgaria.

In summer, the adult birds change their feathers. In June, males gather in flocks in vast marshes and tall reedy ponds, where they shed all their tail and wing feathers almost at once. In about half a month they lose their ability to fly. During this period they hide and can hardly be found until their summer plumage grows, which is similar in color to the female one.

The mallard eats equally plant and animal food, looking for it in the shallows not deeper than 35 cm.

It is both polygamous and monogamous, stable pairs are often formed already in winter, and this does not lead to the disintegration of the flock. Sometimes couples stay together for several years. In spring, male birds often fight, trying to conquer other females and to guard their own territory.

They build their nest well hidden among the densely overgrown coastal areas, often under bushes. They line it with dry plants, leaves, grass and down, which later is used to cover and warm the eggs while the female is away. The nesting period is from the end of March to the end of June. She lays one egg daily. The number of eggs is from 4 to 18, most often 9 - 13. They are white with slight greenish tint, which subsequently disappears. The female sits on the eggs for 26 days. The ducklings hatch sufficiently developed and can run, swim, dive and eat independently after a few hours. At the age of two months, they start learning to fly.