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4 Main Types of Ducks in the United States (With Pictures)

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dabbling duck mallard

Ducks belong to the Anatidae family, along with geese and swans. They’re a common sight in the United States and you can find different species in each region.

In general, there are four main types of ducks that you can find in the United States, and within these types are subtypes and subspecies. Let’s take a closer look at the varieties of this classic yet quirky animal.

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The 4 Main Types of Ducks Across the US

1. Dabbling Ducks

Dabbling Ducks are also known as puddle ducks. These ducks like shallow waters, so you can typically find them in wet fields and marshes.

Dabbling Ducks get their name because of how they feed. When it’s time to eat, they’ll dabble and tip their bottoms up so that they can reach mud and algae laying at the bottom of shallow bodies of water.

These ducks also skim the surfaces of water for floating plants and insects. They can also forage for seeds, grains, and nuts.

Common species that fall under the Dabbling Duck category are Teals, Northern Pintails, and Mallards.

  • Teal

Teals are small and stout ducks with short tails. They come in many different colors. They’re herbivores and tend to eat grains and seeds, and they also enjoy skimming vegetation growing near the surfaces of water.

Common teals that you can spot in the US are Green-Winged Teals, Blue-Winged Teals, and Cinnamon Teals.


  • Northern Pintail
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Image Credit: Pixabay

The Northern Pintail has a slim build with long necks and a round head. They also have long wings and pointed tails.

Male Northern Pintails have bronze-colored heads and green feathers that you can see only when they’re in flight. Female Northern Pintails have brown heads and scallop-patterned feathers on their bodies.

You can find Northern Pintails in Alaska and spread throughout the Midwest. They mainly live in wet grasslands and tundras.


  • Mallard

Mallards are one of the largest species of ducks, and they’re one of the most common and adaptable ducks in North America. You can find them in wetlands and along coastal habitats. At the same time, they also thrive in urban parks with ponds or in backyards with a creek running by them.

Mallards have round heads with flat bills and tails that stick upwards. Male Mallards have vibrant, green heads and a yellow bill.

A subspecies of the Mallard is the Domestic Duck, and there are many varieties of these ducks. They can be pets and are often farmed for meat, eggs, and down feathers.


2. Diving Ducks

Diving Ducks are a type of duck that feeds below the water’s surface. Sea Ducks also fall into this category of ducks. They’re Diving Ducks that live exclusively in marine habitats.

Diving Ducks have blunt-tipped wings that make them have a faster wingbeat than other types of ducks. They can also dive as deep as 200 feet and stay underwater for more extended periods of time when they hunt for food.

There are many different species of Diving Ducks and Sea Ducks. Some of the most common and popular ones in North America are Canvasbacks, Redheads, Goldeneyes, Stiff-Tailed Ducks, and Mergansers.


  • Canvasback

Canvasbacks live all throughout the US, but mainly prefer to breed in the Prairie Potholes region. This region is an area of freshwater marshes covering the Upper Midwest in states including North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.

Male Canvasbacks have chestnut-colored heads, black breasts and tails, and white wings. They also have bright red eyes during the spring that dull out throughout the rest of the year. Female Canvasbacks have a lighter-colored head and a gray-brown body.


  • Redheads

As the name states, the male Redhead has a cinnamon and red-colored head. It also has a black breast and gray body. The female Redhead is brown all throughout. Both male and female Redheads have fairly large and pronounced bills.

Redheads tend to dive in shallower waters than other Diving Duck species. They prefer to breed in the Prairie Pothole Region, and they migrate towards the Great Lakes and coastlines along the south.


  • Goldeneye
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Image Credit: Pixabay

Male Goldeneyes have glossy, dark green heads and black and white bodies, and females have brown heads and gray and white bodies. These ducks have a unique triangle-shaped head and sloping bill.

Goldeneyes like to live near shallower bodies of water and mainly dive for fish and fish eggs. They nest in tree cavities and live in all parts of the Continental US.


  • Stiff-Tailed Duck

Stiff-Tailed Ducks are a subtype of diving ducks containing several different species. Members of this subgroup include the Ruddy Duck, Andean Duck, and Maccoa Duck.

All Stiff-Tailed Ducks have long tail feathers that point straight upwards. They’re also one of the most impressive divers in the Diving Duck category, and they’re incredible swimmers. Because they can navigate waters so well, they’re rarely observed on dry land. They prefer living in permanent deep-water wetlands and can move pretty awkwardly when they’re on land.


  • Merganser

There are several different kinds of Mergansers, including the Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser, and Red-Breasted Merganser. Mergansers only eat fish, so they’re excellent divers. Their long and slender bills have serrated edges to catch and hold onto fish with a firm grip.

Mergansers live along large rivers and lakes. You can often find them mixed in large flocks with other duck species.


3. Perching Ducks

Perching Ducks are very similar to Dabbling Ducks and share some feeding habits and courtship behaviors. They live in wet woodlands, and you can also find them in the tropics.

These ducks got their name because they like to perch on high trees by bodies of water. They have strong claws that help them keep their grip. Perching Ducks that you can find in the US are the Carolina Duck and Muscovy Duck.


  • Carolina Duck
Carolina Duck

Image Credit: Pixabay

The Carolina Duck, or North American Duck, is the most common Perching Duck living in the US. Male Carolina Ducks have incredibly ornate crowns during the breeding season. They have deep, green-colored heads with streaks of white and tufts of feathers on the back. They also have bright red eyes.

Most Carolina Ducks live in the southern states, including Florida, North America, and Texas. However, you can also find them in California during the breeding season.


  • Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Ducks are large ducks native to Central and South America. However, several flocks have migrated further north, and you can now catch glimpses of them in Texas and other southern states.

Male Muscovy ducks have warts on their red faces and black and white bodies. They like to forage, so they prefer still or slow-moving waters, such as ponds and lakes. Muscovy Ducks can also be domesticated, so you can find them in urban areas, such as golf courses and parks.


  • Whistling Duck
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Image Credit: Pixabay

Whistling Ducks almost look like a cross between a duck and a goose. They have long bodies and slender necks. Instead of quacking, these ducks prefer to whistle, and many species are very vocal.

Most Whistling Ducks live in tropical and subtropical areas. However, you can sometimes spot the Black-Bellied Whistling Duck in southern states.

See also: 


  • Black-Bellied Whistling Duck

Wild Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks live in Arizona, Louisiana, and Texas. Unlike other types of ducks, there isn’t any significant differentiation between the appearances of males and females. These ducks have bright pink bills and gray and brown heads. They have brown bodies and black bellies.

Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks like to perch on trees by bodies of water. They’re very vocal and social, and they can live in flocks of up to 1,000 birds.

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Wrap Up

There are over 40 different species of ducks that you can find all over the US. If you look closely, you’ll notice very distinct and special characteristics in each type of duck. Their unique features have made birdwatching and IDing ducks an enjoyable hobby and pastime for many.


Featured Image Credit: Pixabay

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.

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