Anas platyrhyncos - autumn males



Primarily based on Andersson et al. (2016). Juvenile TT and rectrices are the most easily detectable characters for ageing both sexes of mallards. All other criteria are subject to large variation, and should not be used other than as supportive criteria. Mallards with only post-juvenile TT and RR may need to be left unaged, if not showing typically juvenile criteria in other features. Judging age of mallards by single characters is often impossible, especially from photos, and some individuals may even be challenging with all characters presented.

Most 1cy are recognized by the presence of juvenile RR and/or TT. Beware of late broods that may stay unusually fresh into mid-autumn. Juveniles start to moult TT and RR from October onwards, after which ageing gets more complicated and other characters need to be examined more closely. All features are subject to individual variation, so ageing should always be based on a summary of characters.


  • The tail usually contains at least a few juvenile RR that are noticeably narrow, worn, frayed and faded (being of poorer quality compared to adult RR). Juvenile RR usually have a notched tip and brownish internal patterns (similar to females).
  • Juvenile TT are narrower, more worn and have a more brownish ground colour than adult ones.


  • The tail consists of adult RR only; pale, broad and of better quality. Internal patterns are largely unbroken pale to dark grey.
  • TT are broad, fresh and has a silvery-grey ground colour.

1cy male, September. Typical juvenile tail with RR that are narrow, worn, notched at the tip, and mainly brownish in colour with buffish edging. All except central 2-3 pairs show broken internal pattern. [90A92149]

1cy male, November. The whole tail is post-juvenile, so this individual is, therefore, identical to an adult male by this character. Note broader shape, better quality, lack of notching and heavy abrasion, and no brown colouration. [90A88777]

1cy male, November. Easily recognized as a young bird due to remaining juvenile RR being narrower (and shorter), worn, frayed, and with brown and buff colours. The outermost pair of feathers is often the last to be moulted, but sometimes the central pair is still retained when all the others are post-juvenile. [90A88694]

1cy male, October. Sometimes the juvenile feathers are less worn and less notched and have less brown/buff colouration, thus being less distinctive. However, at close examination, juvenile RR are still narrower and more worn, and show a broken internal pattern with brown/buffish tinge. [90A88623]

2cy+ male, October. Nice adult tail showing 8 pairs of mainly greyish-white RR. All feathers are of adult shape, quality and colouration, being broad, fresh, and greyish-white with weak, grey, largely unbroken internal patterns. [90A87325]

2cy+ male, October. Some adult males show more distinctly dark internal patterns on central pairs of rectrices. Dark markings on outer RR are sometimes grizzled. [90A85663]

1cy male, September. Juvenile TT are narrower compared to post-juvenile TT and often abraded. Further, they have a more uniform brownish ground colour, lacking the obvious silvery-grey hue of adults. The pale tips and edges may disappear with wear. Juvenile tertial-c are narrower, more pointed, browner, and usually more frayed compared to adults. Tertial-c may be edged buff (as in this individual) and some may even show a blackish subterminal band inside. [90A92149]

1cy male, November. This bird has acquired adult TT and tertial-c (all tertials may be moulted in October already). However, the inner tertial-c are retained juvenile feathers being worn and uniformly brownish. The innermost tertial-c (large, covering T4) has a buffish tip more common in juveniles. [90A88777]

1cy male, November. A juvenile bird in extremely fresh plumage for the season, also presenting broad and rather greyish TT reminiscent of an adult (compare dull adult 90A88375 further down). Tertial-c are more typically coloured for a juvenile (but, as TT, unusually fresh). [90A88747]

1cy male, November. This bird has moulted T2 to T4, but still has juvenile T1. The four outer tertial-c are worn and dull brownish, but note that even juvenile two outermost tertial-c occasionally show warm brown tips. [90A88713]

2cy+ male, October. Adult TT have a silvery-grey ground colour, fading towards blackish on inner web of T3 and T4, and towards warm brown and blackish on outer web of T1 and T2. (The T4 is actually missing here, as the browner feather looking to be T4 is actually the longest tertial-c retained from previous moult.) Adult TT are broader and generally show less signs of wear compared to juvenile TT. Adult tertial-c are broad and grey, the outer usually broadly tipped chestnut (although not in this individual). [90A71308]

2cy+ male, October. This bird also has the longest tertial-c (covering T4) unmoulted (being browner, slightly frayed and with a pale tip), but the shape and wear reveals it as an adult feather. The rest of tertial-c are also slightly worn, but still rather cold grey, and the outer show warm brown colouration different from juvenile tertial-c. Note "flag-shape" and grey colouration of adult TT. [90A85878]

2cy+ male, September. This individual has a very drab and brownish T1 retained from previous moult (a growing T is barely visible beyond the tertial-c and beside the longest PH). Although fairly drab for an adult, tertial-c are broad and greyish basally and have chestnut wash towards the tip. [90A88375]

2cy+ male, October. This adult show typical TT in both shape and colouration, but has (retained and) drab tertial-c. [90A85663]

1cy male, September. A quite typical wing of a juvenile male. LC. MC as well as PC and PP are dull brownish. The latter show heavy signs of wear. Buffish tips to MC and LC do not occur in adults. [90A88312]

2cy+ male, October. A typical and easily identified adult, showing a grey cast to the whole wing. Note broad, rounded, quite uniformly silvery-grey PC, as well as broad and blunt-tipped GC with full black tips reaching the second outermost feather. [90A87325]

1cy male, October. Juvenile MC and LC are dull brown and often give an unstructured appearance. GC and MC are slightly narrower and more pointed, not widening as much towards the base as in adults. The black GC band gets much reduced in the outer part of the arm and is often not present at all in GC1-3, or present on the outer vane of the feather only. [90A88425]

1cy male, November. This individual could possibly have passed as an adult, having a neat white band and a black band reaching GC2. Also, MC (and LC) are quite greyish, but not as broad, grey and chestnut as in typical adults. [90A88713]

2cy+ male, October. MC and LC are greyish-brown with a silvery hue, and often give a robust and organized impression. MC and GC are broad with a somewhat blunter tip than in juveniles. The black on both vanes generally reaches further out (usually to GC2) in adults. The white band often appears neater due to sharply demarcated borders to grey base and black tip of GC. [90A87325]

2cy+ male, November. The amount of black in the GC tips varies between individuals. This adult has a very thin black line, no black on GC1-2 and very little on GC3-4. Black markings are quite irregular but distinct. The white wing bar appears neat due to even and clear border against solid grey bases of GC. [90A87832]

1cy male, November. Large parts of the head may still be juvenile as late as November. Note the greenish hue to the dull yellow bill and blackish markings on the ridge. [90A88747]

2cy+ male, October. Adult birds show on average a brighter yellow bill than juveniles. Dark patterns on the bill are rarely present. [90A86429]

1cy male, October. The colour of the feet is subject to variation and should only be used as a supplementary character. In general, 1cy birds show a paler orange colour. [90A88520]

2cy+ male, October. Most adult males show a deep orange colour of the feet. [90A85520]

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