Peeking Duck

By staff November 1, 2004

The mallard is perhaps the most familiar and recognizable of the 20 or more duck species found in Florida. The male mallard, that is. Sporting a bright yellow bill and a vivid "ski mask" of iridescent green feathers, he's a common sight on lakes and ponds throughout the bay area.

The mallard hen is equally exquisite, but in a much less obtrusive way. She's smaller than her mate; and her variegated plumage is mostly brown, ensuring that she's well camouflaged during the spring nesting season, when she's most vulnerable to predators.

It's a trait biologists call "sexual dimorphism," in which the two genders of a single species have radically different appearances. In the case of the mallard, the male dons the regal finery, while the female goes (ahem) "hencognito."

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