Chances are you've seen colorful dabbling, diving, or perching ducks in coastal waters, ponds, and lakes. Dabbling ducks, the swiftest of fliers, find their food of mostly water plants on the surface of shallow waters. Diving ducks, the most agile swimmers, go deep down into waters to find their dinners. Perching ducks can roost in trees thanks to their long claws, and they typically dive for food.
In the following gallery of pictures, you'll discover markings, information, and trivia about various types of popular ducks from around the world.
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Common Name: American Wigeon
Scientific Name: Anas americana
The American wigeon is a beautiful dabbling duck with a heavily speckled head. Males have a white forehead and wide green stripe behind the eye, while females are generally plainer. Both genders have a distinctive light blue bill with a black tip. These ducks, while widespread, can be wary, though they do mingle in mixed flocks with mallards and other duck species.Continue to 2 of 12 below.
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Common Name: Wood Duck
Scientific Name: Aix sponsa
The wood duck is a perching duck with spectacular plumage. Males have bold colors with white markings and a vibrant red eye, while females are gray with a white teardrop-shaped eye ring. Both males and females have curved tufts of feathers at the back of the head. These ducks have an aggressive personality and will chase larger ducks away from food and nesting areas, including nest boxes.Continue to 3 of 12 below.
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Common Name: Northern Pintail
Scientific Name: Anas acuta
While many ducks have blunt, stubby tails, the northern pintail has a distinctive long, thin tail that is often held at a sharp upward angle. As a dabbling duck, northern pintails feed by tipping forward into the water to forage on aquatic plants, and one-third of their diet consists of fish and small animals. Unfortunately, they are susceptible to lead poisoning from shot pellets that sink into ponds where they feed.Continue to 4 of 12 below.
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Common Name: Mandarin Duck
Scientific Name: Aix galericulata
The brilliantly colored mandarin duck is common in Asia, Russia, and Japan, with an isolated feral population in the United Kingdom. These bold birds are perching ducks that are closely related to the North American wood duck. Their distinctive beauty makes them popular in Asian artwork, and Chinese lore uses the mandarin duck as a symbol of wedded bliss and marital fidelity.Continue to 5 of 12 below.
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Common Name: Ring-Necked Duck
Scientific Name: Aythya collaris
The ring-necked duck does have a brown ring around its neck, but it is very difficult to see. The white ring around the tip of the gray bill and a similar ring around the bill’s base, however, are easier field marks to identify. Male and female ducks both have a peaked head, but only the males have the iridescent purple sheen to their plumage. This duck is a superb diver and can feed on aquatic plants up to 40 feet below the surface of the water.Continue to 6 of 12 below.
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Common Name: Mallard
Scientific Name: Anas platyrhynchos
The most well known and easily recognizable duck in the world, the mallard is also a popular game bird. These ducks frequently crossbreed with other duck species, making identification challenging for many of their offspring. Males have the more colorful plumage including the iridescent blue-green head and distinctive tail curl, while females are a mottled brown. As a dabbling duck, mallards regularly feed in shallow rivers, ponds, and lakes, and they can become quite tame near human habitation.Continue to 7 of 12 below.
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Common Name: Common Goldeneye
Scientific Name: Bucephala clangula
The common goldeneye is aptly named for its bright, gold eyes. Males have a round white cheek patch on their black iridescent heads, while females have a brown head and lack the cheek patch. These large diving ducks are common throughout the United States and Canada, and they will frequently use nest boxes.Continue to 8 of 12 below.
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Common Name: Ruddy Duck
Scientific Name: Oxyura jamaicensis
The ruddy duck is a small, plump duck that is instantly recognizable by its stiff tail, often held upright. Breeding males have a bold blue bill and chestnut body, while females are a more camouflaged dingy brown. Winter males resemble females. These are relatively sluggish ducks on the surface, and they frequently dive to avoid predators and to feed.Continue to 9 of 12 below.
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Common Name: Northern Shoveler
Scientific Name: Anas clypeata
The northern shoveler is recognizable not only for its bold, colorful plumage but also for having the biggest bill of any North American duck species. This bill is used to feed along the surface of the water, though this dabbling duck will also tip its backside up to feed on aquatic plants along the bottom of shallow ponds and lakes.Continue to 10 of 12 below.
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Common Name: Canvasback
Scientific Name: Aythya valisineria
The canvasback is one of the largest North American ducks and can measure up to 24 inches long with a 36-inch wingspan. The sloping head shape and long, black, tapered bill are distinctive field marks for this species and help distinguish it from the similar redhead.Continue to 11 of 12 below.
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Common Name: Harlequin Duck
Scientific Name: Histrionicus histrionicus
The harlequin duck has bold plumage both in terms of color and patterns. Male ducks have red, white, and blue-gray plumage with white crescents, spots, and lines, while females are a plainer brown but still have distinctive white markings on the head. These are diving ducks that are common in western Canada and throughout Alaska, especially on rocky coasts.Continue to 12 of 12 below.
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Common Name: Smew
Scientific Name: Mergellus albellus
The smew is an elegant duck with pied plumage that has thin black lines crossing its white chest and flanks. Females lack the white coloration and are mostly gray and brown with a white cheek patch. Its tufted crest is typical of mergansers (fish-eating diving ducks) and is another clear field marking. This perching bird nests in trees and dives for food and is commonly found in Europe and Asia.
Semel, Brad, Sherman, Paul W. Intraspecific Parasitism And Nest-Site Competition In Wood Ducks. Animal Behaviour, 61,4,787-803, 2001, doi:10.1006/anbe.2000.1657
Pain, Deborah J, Mateo, Rafael, Green, Rhys E. Effects of Lead From Ammunition on Birds And Other Wildlife: A Review and Update. Ambio, 48,9,935-953, 2019, doi:10.1007/s13280-019-01159-0