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A photo of a Mottled Duck (Anas fulvigula), male
Mottled Duck, Male

Mottled Duck

Anas fulvigula

The mottled duck, or mottled mallard, is a medium-sized dabbling duck that presents an intermediate appearance between the female mallard and the American black duck. It is a species that is closely related to these ducks, and while it is sometimes mistakenly thought to be a subspecies of the mallard, it is indeed a distinct species.

Identification Tips

Adult mottled ducks range from 44 to 61 cm in length. They exhibit a dark body with a lighter head and neck, and both sexes boast a shiny green-blue speculum on their wings, which is notably not bordered with white as in the mallard. The male can be distinguished by its bright yellow bill, while the female's bill is a deep to pale orange, sometimes adorned with black splotches. The plumage is generally darker than that of female mallards, particularly at the tail, and the bill is more yellow. In flight, the absence of a white border around the speculum is a key distinguishing feature. The American black duck is darker than the mottled duck, and its wing-patch leans more towards purple than blue.

Habitat

Mottled ducks favor brackish and intermediate coastal marshes as their breeding habitat. They are also known to adapt to human-developed areas such as retaining ponds, water impoundments, and agricultural lands during the breeding season.

Distribution

The mottled duck is found along the Gulf of Mexico coast, ranging from Alabama to Tamaulipas in Mexico. The Florida mottled duck, a subspecies, is resident in central and southern Florida and may occasionally stray north to Georgia. Both subspecies have been introduced into South Carolina, where they have expanded their range.

Behaviour

These ducks are mostly non-migratory and are quite common within their range. They are year-round residents and do not migrate. Mottled ducks feed by dabbling in shallow waters or grazing on land.

Song & Calls

The vocalizations of the mottled duck are similar to those of the mallard, with which it shares many behaviors.

Breeding

Mottled ducks breed in coastal marshes and are known to use a variety of habitats for nesting, including pastures and dry marshes. They are fairly adaptable in their breeding habits.

Similar Species

The mottled duck can be confused with the female mallard and the American black duck. However, the lack of a white border on the speculum and the darker body plumage can help differentiate it from these species.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the mottled duck consists mainly of plants, but they will also consume mollusks and aquatic insects. They feed by dabbling in shallow waters and grazing on land.

Conservation Status

The mottled duck is currently listed as Least Concern by the IUCN and is considered Apparently Secure by NatureServe. However, concerns about habitat destruction and hybridization with mallards could pose future threats to the distinctiveness of this species, particularly the Florida mottled duck.

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Mottled Duck Fun Facts

Did you know?
Mottled Ducks will start to pair up as early as November in preparation for the following spring.

Mottled Ducks on Birda

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