Mottled ducks, also known as mottled mallard, Florida mottled duck and Florida mallard, is a medium-sized waterfowl found in the Southeastern United States and Mexico. It is one of the most widely banded birds in that region. The males of this species are called mottled drakes, and the females mottled hens.
Table of Contents
Mottled Duck Scientific Classification
Table Of Content
Table of Contents
Mottled Duck Identification & Description
Size: They can measure around 50-61 in (19.7-24 cm).
Weight: They weigh between 1.79 and 2.93 lb (810-1330 gm).
Wingspan: Their wingspan is 95.7-106.3 in (243-270 cm).
Plumage: Buff colored, the speculum is shiny blue, yellow bills in males, pale orange in females, and male tails have a faint pattern which the tails of females lack. Dorsal and ventral sides are brownish-black and ventral side has a smoke-gray U-shaped stripe.
Sexual Dimorphism: Apart from the dimorphisms mentioned above, males are larger than females.
Mottled ducks can be found in abundance in Louisiana, Texas, and Florida. Smaller populations thrive around the Gulf of Mexico, Alabama, and Mississippi, as well as Veracruz in Mexico which has the lowest number of ducks residing.
- The Florida Duck (Anas fulvigula fulvigula)
- The Mottled Duck (A. f. maculosa)
In Florida, mottled ducks live in ditches, freshwater wetlands, flooded marshes and wet prairies. They also dwell in flooded fallow and rice fields and mosquito control areas. In Louisiana and Texas, they inhabit brackish ponds and fresh, saltwater marshes.
- The male ducks are more aggressive than females, while the latter mostly shows aggression while looking after their brood. Several ways of exhibiting aggression include bill-threats, biting, chasing away any threat or intruder, inciting a member of the opposite sex, and flights, where two males pursue a single female and overtake her to mate.
- They are non-migratory.
- Their territories cover an area of 40 sq. miles within which they spend their lives.
- They are adept at both swimming in water and waddling on land.
- Being diurnal, they remain active between dawn and dusk.
- While searching for food in the marshlands, they are seen to display a dabbling behavior by tipping their heads into water.
Mating & Reproduction
Mottled ducks form monogamous pairs, but only for a particular breeding season, with pairings changing every year. Pairs are formed around March and go up to November, which finally ends with the ducks going their separate ways after the egg-hatching procedure ends. Nests are built on the ground within vegetation like marsh grass, which forms the nesting habitat.
Breeding occurs once a year during January, after which 5-13 eggs are laid and incubated for 24-28 days.
The ducklings fledge after 45-56 days subsequently becoming independent after 65-70 days. Both sexes become sexually mature after one year.
They may survive in the wild for about 5 years, and in captivity for up to 20 years.
Sounds & Communication
Mottled ducks communicate with each other through audiovisual means. They use a raspy ‘raeb raeb’ call, made in a variety of notes, pitches, and numbers, to signify alarm, courtship, and aggression. A frightened female has been known to make up to four quick quacks, whereas they use a note best described as ‘gagg’ to attract drakes.
Mottled ducks are omnivorous, eating aquatic plants, mollusks, aquatic insects, pupae, larvae, small aquatic animals, seeds, small fishes, crabs, and snails.
- The prolific swimming ability of the mottled ducks is because of their webbed feet.
- Their wings are strong and deep, giving them direct, albeit slow flight.
Most mottled ducks just fly away to escape predation. Vulnerable are the ducklings, molting adults, and nesting females to predators like red foxes, gray foxes, American minks, striped skunks, raccoons, river otters, ground squirrels. Birds of prey have also been known to prey on them, as indeed have alligators, snapping turtles, bass, and bullfrogs.
IUCN Conservation Status
The IUCN Red List has listed the mottled duck under the ‘Least Concern’ category.
- Mottled ducks play an active role in pest control by keeping mosquito populations under check.
- It is one of the most routinely hunted waterfowls in America.
- The oldest known mottled duck was 13 years 7 months when it was shot in Florida.
Mottled Duck vs. Mallard vs American Black Duck
One of the fundamental differences between the similar looking female wild duck, or hen mallard, and mottled duck is the fact that the latter’s head and neck are lightly colored than the body feathers, while mallards do not have this pattern.
The American black duck has a darker plumage than the mottled duck. In fact, the mottled duck acts as an intermediate between the mallard ( females) and the American black duck.