Mallard ducks do not mate for life. They form pairs and remain together until a nesting site is chosen and the female lays her eggs. Afterwards the male mallard, called a drake, deserts the female and joins up with a group of other males.

Once the drake has abandoned the female with her eight to 13 eggs, he may mate again with other isolated females. The female remains to incubate the nest for 25 to 30 days. When the ducklings hatch, they immediately have the ability to swim, but they are usually led to water by their mother. The family unit of the mother and ducklings might part when the juvenile ducks attain flight ability or remain together until the next breeding season.