Meller's Duck

Meller's Duck (Anas melleri) is a species of the dabbling duck genus Anas. It is endemic to eastern Madagascar. Although a population was established on Mauritius in the mid-18th century, this is on the verge of extinction due to habitat loss and competition by feral domestic ducks (Young & Rhymer 1998).

These birds resemble a fairly large female Mallard. However, as opposed to most mallard relatives, they lack a supercilium. The speculum feathers are green as in some of its relatives, but unlike in these, it is bordered white as in the Mallard.

Meller's Duck breeds apparently during most of the year except May-June on Madagascar, dependent on local conditions; the Mauritian population has been recorded to breed in October and November. Unlike most of their closer relatives - with the exception of the African Black Duck -, they are fiercely territorial during the breeding season; furthermore, pairs remain mated until the young are independent.(Young & Rhymer 1998)

This species is classified as Endangered by the IUCN. The Lac Alaotra wetlands, where historically the largest number of these birds was to be found, have suffered habitat destruction on a large scale in the latter half of the 20th century, and local waterbird populations have declined dramatically (Young & Rhymer 1998).

The conservation of this species was long hampered by its - entirely erroneous, see below - dismissal as a variant of the Mallard which deserved no special interest (Young & Rhymer 1998). Due to its drab plumage and territorial habits, this species is not very popular among aviculturalists, although it reproduces readily in captivity like most ducks if enough space and good habitat are provided. Although a captive breeding program (EEP) exists, the species is not very often kept in zoos either; it can be seen more frequently seen in Europe, such as in EEP members Cologne, Edinburgh, Jersey, and Zürich Zoos.


Due to the outward similarity of Meller's Duck to the female Mallard, it was commonly placed close to that species. Based on records of quasi-forced hybridization under unnatural conditions (Lorenz 1941), it was even proposed to be a mere color morph of the Mallard (Johnsgard 1965).

Nowadays, it is regarded as one of the most distinct species in the mallard group, based on behavioral (Young 1999) and mtDNA D-loop sequence (Young & Rhymer 1998, Johnson & Sorenson 1999) comparisons. Its closest relatives is apparently the Yellow-billed Duck, another early divergence of the mallard clade, in which these species and the African Black Duck are basal (Young & Rhymer 1998), but the exact relationships of Meller's and the Yellow-billed Ducks to that species are fairly obscure (Young & Rhymer 1998, Young 1999).



  • Database entry includes a range map, a brief justification of why this species is endangered, and the criteria used
  • Johnsgard, P. A. (1965) Handbook of waterfowl behaviour. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York. ISBN 0801402077
  • Johnson, Kevin P. & Sorenson, Michael D. (1999) "Phylogeny and biogeography of dabbling ducks (genus Anas): a comparison of molecular and morphological evidence," Auk, 116(3): 792–805. PDF fulltext
  • Lorenz, Konrad Z. (1941) "Vergleichende Bewegungsstudien an Anatinen," Journal für Ornithologie 89(Supplement): 194-294.
  • Young, H. Glyn (1999) "Comparative study of the courtship displays of Meller's Duck Anas melleri, Yellowbilled Duck A. undulata and Northern Mallard A. platyrhynchos," Ostrich 70:117-122.
  • Young, H. Glyn & Rhymer, Judith M. (1998) "Meller's duck: A threatened species receives recognition at last," Biodiversity and Conservation 7:1313-1323.

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