Waterfowl Commonly Seen in Practice

Mallard ducklings


Ducklings are precocial. Ducklings quickly leave the nest and most injured or orphaned ducklings are presenting during the first few weeks of life.

  • The nesting stage of mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) ducklings is generally limited to 1 day. The normal duckling follows its mother until fledging at 50-60 days of age.
  • Wood ducks (Aix sponsa) are tree cavity nesters. Ducklings using their sharp claws to climb out of the nest or they simply leap down, sometimes as far as 60 feet, landing near the mother below. The young are able to fly by day 56-70 days.

Mallard ducklings and wood ducklings appear quite similar, however correct identification is critical because these species have very different husbandry requirements. Wood ducklings are relatively carnivorous, feeding on fish and aquatic insects. Wood ducklings are also much more shy and high-strung in captivity.

  • Mallard ducklings are yellow-gold below and brown-gold above. A prominent, dark eyeline extends from the nares, and a brown cap extends over the crown. A second brown mark is usually present below the eyeline. The legs are brown.
  • When mallards hybridize with domestic ducks, the young have yellow-orange legs, relatively large feet, and more yellow in their down feathers. These individuals should be placed in homes with other domestic ducks.
  • Wood ducklings are less yellow than mallard ducklings. They also have shorter tails, lighter, cream-colored breasts, and the eyeline extends only from the crown to the eye. Wood ducklings are also noticeably smaller than mallard ducklings.

Image of a mallard duck and her ducklings by M. Harky.


American Livestock Breeds Conservancy website. Available at: http://albc-usa.org/. Accessed on December 7, 2012.
Animal Diversity Web. Available at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Aix_sponsa/. Accessed December 08, 2012.

British Waterfowl Association. Available at: http://www.waterfowl.org.uk/index.html. Accessed on December 8, 2012.

Cosley zoo. White Pekin duck. Available at
http://www.cosleyzoo.org/species/white_pekin_duck.htm. Accessed on December 7, 2012.

Pedynowski D, Payne M. Captive-rearing and release criteria for mallards (Anas playtrhynchos). NWRA. Pp. 91-101.

Rogers Luebbert JA. Canada goose (Branta canadensis) rehabilitation: A natural history guide for veterinarians. Proc Assoc Avian Vet 1996. Pp. 245-251.

Sibley DA. The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York, NY; Alfred A. Knopf; 2000.

Speer BL. Pet waterfowl medicine and surgery. Annu Conf Proc MASAAV 2007. Pp. 90-92.

To cite this page: Pollock C. Waterfowl commonly seen in practice. December 19, 2012. LafeberVet Web site. Available at https://lafeber.com/vet/waterfowl-commonly-seen-in-practice/