Wild South Florida — Mottled Ducks
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Mottled Ducks
mottled ducks
Mottled ducks, photographed at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Boynton Beach, March 2015.
mottled duck family

It might be said that the mottled duck, Anas fulvigula, has a complex. Or, more accurately, part of a complex. The mallard complex, a group of 20 duck species worldwide, including the mallard, that are closely related.

Its close relationship to the mallard is one of the mottled duck's biggest problems.

The mottled duck is a dark brown bird with a light brown head. It has white underparts; the back of the wings are greenish blue. Males and females are similar in size and appearance except for the bill — its greenish yellow in males, orange with black markings in females.They are about two feet long, with a wingspan of three feet, more or less.

Mottled ducks are found in watery habitats throughout Florida's peninsula and along the Gulf Coast in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. It is one of the few ducks that doesn't migrate and it is the only duck adapted to breed in southern wetlands.

They feed by dabbling, basically by dunking their heads in water as they look for food, be it seeds, aquatic invertebrates or aquatic vegetation. Some of the chicks in the photo at the left and the adult in the photo below left are dabbling.

Mottled ducks face two major problems. The first is loss of habitat, same problem facing a fair number of bird species. The second is more unusual. Because of they are so closely related, mottled ducks will mate with mallards — mallards that once were pets and released into the wild for one reason or another by their owners. The offspring is a hybrid between the two species.

mottled ducks

They are listed as "least concern" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, but other organizations say measures need to be taken to protect the mottled duck's future.

Mottled ducks are ground nesters. Both male and female will scout together for a site, usually in dense vegetation. They will form a depression in a clump of grass and line it with vegetation and bits of down from the female's breast. Females lay between five and 13 eggs per clutch, which will incubate for about four weeks. Breeding season begins in January, peaks in March and April, and concludes in July.

Within a day or two, the young ducklings are ready to clamber out of their nest and swim about with their parents. Within 50 days, they are capable of short bursts of flight to escape a predator. Within 60 to 70 days, they are ready for sustained flight.

Other common names: Florida duck, Florida mallard and dusky duck. They are members of Anatidae.



by David Sedore

mottled duck family mottled duck mottled ducks
mottled ducks
Links for Mottled Ducks Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology National Audubon Society National Geographic Society
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