Anas platyrhynchos (Mallard) 

Groenkopeend [Afrikaans]; Wilde eend [Dutch]; Canard colvert [French]; Stockente [German]; Pato-real [Portuguese]

Life > Metazoa (Animals)  > Phylum: Chordata > Vertebrata > Class: Aves (birds) > Order: Anseriformes > Family: Anatidae

Anas platyrhynchos (Mallard) 

Mallard, Vredekloof, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs across much of the Northern Hemisphere, largely excluding high mountains, deserts and tundra of the Arctic Circle,  while also breeding in the area from Morocco to Algeria, heading to Sudan and Ethiopia in the non-breeding season. It is present in the Western Cape and Gauteng, but both populations are feral birds which probably escaped from wildfowl collections. It generally prefers freshwater wetlands, sewage ponds and irrigation ponds; it is tolerant of disturbance by humans.

Distribution of Mallard in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project ( Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Movements and migrations

Its movements in South Africa are not well understood, however it is though to be largely sedentary.


Omnivorous, feeding on a variety of insects and other invertebrates, as well as fish, amphibians and plant matter. It does most of its foraging by plucking food from the ground or water, often dabbling and up-ending. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Invertebrates
    • insects
    • molluscs
    • crustaceans
    • annelids
  • Vertebrates
    • fish
    • amphibians
  • Plants
    • seeds
    • cereals


  • Not studied in southern Africa, so most of the following information comes from observations in Europe.
  • Monogamous, solitary nester, with pairs staying together for only a single breeding season, during which they perform elaborate and complex courtship displays.
  • The nest is built solely by the female, consisting of a shallow depression with a rim of grasses, leaves and small twigs, well-lined with soft down and typically placed in dense vegetation near water. It may occasionally use a nest box or tree cavity instead of building its own nest.
  • It lays 4-18 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for 24-32 days.
  • The chicks leave the nest within 14-21 hours of hatching, lead by the female to the water. She cares for and feeds them in the water until they take their first flight at 50-60 days old, at which point they become fully independent


Not threatened, in fact it is widespread and common.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



 Contact us if you can contribute information or images to improve this page.

Birds home   Biodiversity Explorer home   Iziko home   Search