Who’s the Dark Brown Duck?

In this picture from Lake Katherine I have a male mallard (right) with a head injury (see next picture), but the duck to the left I’m not sure about. It looks too dark to be a female mallard. Does anybody know what it is? These two were inseparable. Any help would be great. Thank you!

Here is a close up of the male mallard’s head. Maybe a hawk took a swipe at him??? I don’t know.


  1. Around the DuPage River, West Branch, in Warrenville we have had many hybrid ducks, and last year had a whole ‘family’ of those brown ducks with the mallard head. This year we have some that are almost white on their backs with mallard heads, and there also are some with white chests and mallard heads. Two of the latter are ‘inseparable’ with a ‘normal’ male mallard, and have been for the 4 years I have observed them. I suspect the hybrids of being infertile or else, hmm, some other sexual deviation???

  2. A friend (a duck hunter) said he thinks the brown duck looks like a hybrid and probably is the female in the pair. As such she may be sterile. It has the head and bill of a mallard but not the body.

  3. Ducks (particularly those you see in the public parks & such,) tend to hybridize pretty freely, creating all kinds of new “looks.” As for ducks with tufts on their heads, those tend to be the results of mating battles.

  4. Donna: That’s some terrific info! Thank you so much for taking the time to teach us what you know! I appreciate it 😀

    Judy: Your hunter friend not only helps me learn something new, but helps a whole bunch of others wondering the same thing! Thank you and thank your friend for us too!!!

    Dawn: Yes, makes ya want to kiss him doesn’t it???

    Lana: You are a treasure. Thank you for sharing what you know…I rather learn it from you than from a school text book!!! 😀

  5. Update: Another duck hunter from Michigan told me that they have ducks that look like that. They call them Canal Mallards, and are the result of cross-breeding of a mallard with a Muscovy duck, so they can be quite odd-looking. Brown usually indicates female, he said. But a duck which has a curled tail feather coming up in the center of the tail feathers, is supposedly male. The two ducks in your photo seem to both have those curly “drake feathers” so hmmm….

  6. We have a large duck just arrived on our canal here in Wales with a very neat and tidy ‘crown’ of white feathers on the back of its head. It might be the result of a wound but it looks too neat. Otherwise it displays some features of a mallard and, I think, a ruddy duck. It is quite unlike anything else we have seen or found in a book. We did have a pair of perfectly black ducks here for a couple of years but they have gone

  7. The one on the left IS a male, you can tell from the green head and the curled feather, regardless of the brown plumage, most likely he is a hybrid with a khaki campbell or buff orbington, possible even a cayuga at some point because of all the green, it is a male mallard/hybrid mix and not a female 🙂

  8. oh, also…google crested ducks, the thing on his head looks more like a badly formed crest rather than an injury. It’s not uncommon to see two males swimming together either btw 🙂 This guy is a mix of a couple things

  9. I think i know what happened to his head. I recently witnessed a mink do the exact same thing to one of my ducks…..they grab them by the head and pull them under….i watched it….and still couldn’t believe my own eyes!

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