Mallard and young

Legal status

During the breeding season when mallards are nesting, it is important not to chase away a duck that has started nesting.

Mallards and the law

Wild birds and their nests are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 in England, Scotland and Wales, which includes that it is an offence to intentionally (or recklessly in Scotland) kill, injure or take any wild bird, or to take, damage or destroy (or otherwise interfere with in Scotland) its nest, eggs or young.

This includes mallards and other wildfowl, but these can also be legally shot during open seasons, subject to certain legal provisions.

The open season for mallards is normally from 1 September to 31 January, with an extension which applies below the high water mark of ordinary spring tides on the coast in England, Wales and Scotland until 20 February. Northern Ireland has its own legislation. 

During the breeding season when mallards are nesting, it is important not to chase away a duck that has started nesting, since she must be allowed access to her nest.

If you find a nest full of eggs, you must not interfere with them.

In some parts of the UK under certain circumstances those managing a site may be authorised to remove eggs to rear in captivity and then release, or to destroy (but not keep) eggs from a failed nest later in the year.

Further advice should be sought from the relevant conservation Authority by anyone who is unsure of the laws which apply to their situation.

Female mallard washing, Glasgow, Scotland