Mottled Duck (Anas fulviga) consists of 2 North American subspecies. These subspecies are the nominate Florida Mottled Duck (Anas fulviga fulviga) and the Gulf Coastal Mottled Duck (Anas fulviga maculosa), that have geographically independent breeding populations (refer to Phil Lavretsky’s mallard genetics discussion on Duck Season Somewhere podcast for more information).
Mottled ducks have drab plumage that without a second glance can be confused with that of mallard hens, but drake mottleds have black placement on their bright yellow bills on the tip and at the gape of their mouth (hens have blackish bills with yellow tips) and possess slightly darker body and eye stripe plumage. “Cousins” include Mallards, American Black Ducks, and Mexican Ducks. Some features to look for during flight include the pale head and light underwings of both sexes are prominent against their dark body. Similarly to all mallard-like subspecies, they sport orange traffic cone colored legs. Importantly, mottleds wings oftentimes have a single white wing bar on their blue-green speculums.
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The Mottled Duck has a limited range and will only sometimes migrate to breeding and wintering grounds. Preferred habitat used throughout this time is characterized by extremely shallow water. Favored foraging marsh and marsh-like areas have emergent vegetation as seeds and stems of bulrush, grasses, and wild millet. The normal year-round range is along the Gulf of Mexico in the United States and Mexico. But the species may be encountered outside of this region, too. Reported harvests throughout Mississippi and into Arkansas became more common following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. Some groups will choose to breed in east Texas, and then migrate to the southern part of the Mexican Gulf Coast. They have mallard-like vocalizations and will respond to calls and decoys, particularly earlier in the season. Hunters often report difficulty in hunting mottled ducks. This is likely because they’re non-migratory, susceptible to hunting pressure, hunted in their year-round backyard and know precisely where they want to go.
Mottled ducks are seasonally monogamous and will part sometime during the egg-laying phase. After hatching, hens stay with their young and will eat mostly invertebrates such as snails, beetles, and occasionally small fish.