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What Is the Mottled Duck?

The Mottled Duck is a unique waterfowl, native to the Gulf Coast, flaunting a distinctive speckled plumage. Often mistaken for mallards, these ducks play a crucial role in wetland ecosystems. With their numbers impacted by habitat loss, understanding their behavior and conservation needs is vital. How can we ensure the survival of this species? Join us as we uncover the answers.
Jodee Redmond
Jodee Redmond

The mottled duck is native to Florida and the Gulf coast of Texas. Unlike migratory birds, this species does not relocate during different times of the year. Both males and females are brown in color, and this type of water fowl may be mistaken for a Mallard duck. They nest on the ground and females may lay a dozen or more eggs in a single clutch.

An adult mottled duck can measure up to two feet (0.6 meters) in length and weighs up to 2.5 lb (1.13 kilograms). The duck’s head is covered in light-colored feathers and the feathers on the duck’s back are a dark brown color. The legs are an orange color, and the duck’s eyes are dark. The male’s bill color is yellow, while in females the bill is orange.

Peregrine falcons prey on mottled ducks.
Peregrine falcons prey on mottled ducks.

This variety of duck can be found living in rivers and ponds. The Florida population lives in both fresh and brackish water areas. The mottled duck may also be found in areas where annual flooding is common. In some cases, these ducks can be spotted in ditches or ponds formed after heavy rains.

The nesting season for this species can start as early as January. The nests are located near water but positioned so that they are above the waterline. Most mottled ducklings are born in early spring, although breeding can continue as late as July. The egg color can range from a cream to a greenish-white. The mother duck will incubate the eggs for a period of up to 27 days before they hatch.

The mother duck will move her young out of the nest and into the water shortly after they hatch. The mottled duck feeds on water plants, as well as fish or small aquatic animals. The mottled duck will also feed on insects and mollusks, if these food sources are readily available.

The duck's natural predators include carnivorous animals like snapping turtles and alligators. Ducklings may also become food for bullfrogs. Mottled ducks of all ages are at risk from the air from birds such as Peregrine falcons and harriers.

The mottled duck population is experiencing a slow but steady decline. As humans develop former wetlands for their own needs, the amount of land available for the ducks to live on will continue to decrease. Population levels are also affected by mottled ducks breeding with Mallard ducks to produce a hybrid species.

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    • Peregrine falcons prey on mottled ducks.
      By: falconhy
      Peregrine falcons prey on mottled ducks.