Research Project: Where Are Ducks Nests? What Do They Eat?

Nothing Else Counts In This World!   

James Asks "What do ducks eat and where are their nests?"

Eggs and Nests: Mallards build cup-like nests made of grass and leaves; they are lined with duck down (delicate feathers). Nests are usually on the ground in dense undergrowth. Females lay 5-14 greenish-white eggs in each clutch (a set of eggs laid at one time). The female cares for the young

Mallards form pairs only until the female lays eggs, at which time she is left by the male. The clutch is 8?13 eggs, which are incubated for 27?28 days to hatching with 50?60 days to fledging. The ducklings are precocial, and can swim and feed themselves on insects as soon as they hatch, although they stay near the female for protection.

Not overly disturbed by human activity, Mallard Ducks are often seen in canals, lakes, ponds, and urban parks. They seem to be able to adapt well to nearly anywhere with a body of freshwater and an appropriate climate.

Mallard Ducks are migratory, spending winters in more southern regions and summering in northerly parts of their range. In warmer areas of the world, some Mallard Ducks may not migrate. In the fall and winter, they pair into mated couples.

Although females quack, males do not; rather, they communicate with whistling or grunting noises. Mallard Ducks spend most of their time foraging for food.

Daffy Dumas Duck    Daffy Dumas Duck
Daffy Dumas Duck

They eat a number of items including insects, fish eggs, small fish, tadpoles, wild rice, berries, leaves, green plant shoots, and grain. Most of this food is acquired from foraging in muddy areas in or near the water and embankment of the Mallard Duck's home. The Mallard Duck uses its bill to filter food from the mud.

Mallard Ducks usually nest in March, though by autumn most have formed pairs. They use nests located on the ground, made from leaves, grass, and other vegetation and lined with feathers. Often, these nests may be located away from water. The eggs are usually a green color, ranging from olive green to blue green.

Between 8 and 12 eggs are laid in an average clutch, and they require between 22 and 30 days of incubation by the hen, or female Mallard Duck, before they hatch.


Normally drakes have little to do with the ducklings, and the female will lead them to the water once they have hatched. Usually the drake will have abandoned the family during the first week of incubation. The hatching of Mallard ducklings usually occurs between the end of March and July. By the time they are about two months old, the little Mallard Ducks begin to fly.

The Nest

Duck Nest
Usually close to the water for an east escape

Mallard nest
Mallard nest

Mallard Two

Do Ducks Have Tongues?

Duck Tongues

"Duck tongue?" "I didn't know ducks had tongues!"

For duck-tongue novices, the nature of the organ can elicit both confusion and curiosity. Why do ducks even possess tongues? Do they need them to quack?

For lovers of the delicacy, the question as to what makes the organ so prized is a no-brainer. Surrounded by a faint hint of meat and papery thin layers of cartilage, duck tongue is predominately a vehicle for juicy pockets of fat. At barely two inches in length, the tongue is small and flimsy, yet its taste is intensely ducklike. When freshly fried, duck tongues are positively addicting with a crisp surface and a creamy, slightly fatty interior that melts in your mouth. Like potato chips or pork cracklings, one tongue is never enough.

About Ducks

Ducks, (Quackus Flyus) are small domesticated waterfowl which perceptually suffer from "Duck's Disease", also known as SLS (short leg syndrome). Ducks have a medium wingspan of 35 meters in diameter, and are covered in feathers. The term "Duck" is a combination between dick and fuck. In the scientific community they are not known as "Ducks" but as "Duck", singular. Another form of Duck is the verb To Duck, which involves holding a live Duck above one's head while you lower your own, thus allowing the Duck to take the bullet when it is fired in one's general direction, or when one's best friend throws a roofing staple gun at one's unprotected face. Duck tape is made of ducks as well, obviously. The game duck duck goose did not originate from ducks but dicks in an odd sex game. Duck duck goose is also a celebrated duck mating ritual.

James Asks "What do baby ducks eat?"

Ducklings eat live insects and minnows from the
time they hatch through the first month of life!

Newly hatched ducklings feed almost exclusively on invertebrates. This includes everything from earthworms to small crustaceans, snails, and insect larvae and adults. Invertebrates provide a concentrated source of protein and fat required by a rapidly growing animal. By the time ducklings are about 2 weeks old, or one-quarter grown, they begin to consume a diet that is more adult like.

IIn some species this is still mostly invertebrates; in others, it is mostly plant matter. Invertebrate availability influences where a hen will take her brood. Very often people find a mallard nest close to a particular wetland and then are concerned because the eggs hatched, but the brood never appeared on their wetland. Many folks think that this means that something killed the ducklings, but in many cases it simply means that the hen took the brood to another wetland that had richer invertebrate resources. Such wetlands may be as far as 3 miles away from the nest.

The ducklings don't have to feed while they are hiking to the "brood pond" because they have a "yolk sack" that contains the remainder of the egg yolk. The yolk sack contains enough nutrient reserves to keep the ducklings going for about 3 days after they hatch.

The need for invertebrates also explains why very young broods are seldom seen on large lakes. Because water levels are relatively stable on such lakes, nutrients do not recycle rapidly enough to support the large invertebrate populations required by broods.

Also, such lakes are likely to hold fish populations that may compete with ducklings for the limited invertebrates available there. This is one reason that shallow marshes are so valuable to waterfowl production.

Why Do Ducks Have Orange Feet?

Fancy Feet Male mallards with bright orange feet might have
greater success courting ladies. Chris Hepburn/Getty Images

Actually, many species of ducks have feet?and legs!?tinted a bluish green or gray. But for the ducks that do have orange feet, well, it’s all about attracting the ladies. Chicks dig orange.

Kevin Omland is an evolutionary biologist at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, and he knows as much about mallard-duck coloring patterns as anyone; it was his graduate thesis. “I looked at male mallards and thought, gosh, they exhibit so many wonderful colors, I wonder which ones females care about,” he says. Do lady ducks lust after the males’ green head plumage? Or maybe it’s the blue patches on the males’ wings? Then again, what female duck can resist a nicely proportioned set of white “neck tie” feathers? After four years of documenting mallard courtships, Omland found that none of those mattered. All they cared about was the brightness of the guy’s yellow-orange bill.

Bright orange coloring suggests that a male duck, also known as a drake, is getting all his vitamins, particularly carotenoids, such as beta-carotene and vitamin A, antioxidants that can be beneficial to the immune system. “This indicates that his behaviors and genes are good enough for him to recognize and eat the right food, or that his immune system is strong enough to produce bright orange legs,” Omland says. “The female sees this as a very attractive trait to pass on to her offspring.”

Omland’s work only looked at drakes’ bills, but he thinks there’s enough circumstantial evidence to say that ducks check out each other’s feet, too. “Blue-footed boobies have, obviously, very blue feet, and it’s very well documented that they use their feet in courtship and that females do care about the coloration of males’ feet,” Omland says. “Perhaps mallards, like the boobies, have a foot fetish.”