Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is a familiar sight to many people living in the Northern hemisphere. The female duck is brownish all over with mottled streaking of buff, white, and dark brown feathers. And right now you’ll see a lot of ducks around Lansing in twos. Momma and Poppa mallards are sticking close to each other as they look for safe areas to nest.
Mallards choose their mates in the fall but do not begin to breed until late March or early April. They typically nest on the ground, in tall grass and shrubs. There doesn’t have to be any water nearby and sometimes the nest site seems very inappropriate.
So how long do you have to wait for momma mallard to move on? The female typically lays one egg per day until she has accumulated a full clutch which averages 9-12 eggs. She lays an egg a day but doesn’t incubate the eggs until there is a full clutch. The first few eggs are laid in a shallow "scrape" in the ground. As laying progresses, the hen will add grass, twigs, and lots of her own down feathers to the nest, resulting in a well insulated and surprisingly well camouflaged nest bowl.
Once her clutch is complete she begins to incubate the eggs for 25-29 days. The male “drake” has probably lost interest by now and abandoned the female to join up with other males. During this time the hen leaves her nest for only about an hour in the morning and evening to feed.
After about a month all the viable eggs hatch within a 24 hour period. Then the hen marches her brood proudly to the nearest wetland to learn how to feed on gastropods, invertebrates, crustaceans, worms, many varieties of seeds, plant matter, roots and tubers.