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If you live in the state of Colorado or you are just visiting to see the beautiful sites, you might wonder what types of ducks Colorado houses.
Since ducks are migratory creatures, they may not always be in the state at the same time as you, but there are several duck species that pass through. We were curious to track which breeds crossed Colorado’s borders, so we rounded up 20 of those that chart a course through the Centennial State and divvied out the main points about each one. Let’s get to know these lively waterfowl.
Ducks are divided into two different categories: dabbling and diving.
Here are the main differences:
Now, let’s go over each type of duck at a time so you can see the variety.
|Scientific Name:||Mareca Americana|
|Male Sound:||Slow, high-pitched whistles|
|Female Sound:||Grating grunt or growl|
American wigeons are highly prevalent in the United States, including Colorado, but they don’t enjoy being around populated areas. You can find them hiding out in quiet swamps and other wetlands across the state where they can have privacy.
Male wigeons are very recognizable due to their emerald green heads. Females are much less flashy, sporting neutral colors with gray and red hues.
Unlike the mallard, the male American wigeon only has a section of its head that is green. But upon further inspection, you can see that the wigeon’s head has much more height.
|Scientific Name:||Anas platyrhynchos|
|Male Sound:||Raspy call|
|Female Sound:||Classic quack|
The mallard is one of the more common faces you might see. Not only are these ducks popular in the United States, but they are also familiar faces across the world.
These ducks have an incredibly recognizable pattern. While the females are slightly dull in color, the males are beautifully feathered with brilliant emerald green heads.
These ducks have inspired rustic décor, hunting video games, and art across the US. They also lend their genetics to most of the domesticated ducks you see. And they are no stranger to Colorado’s beautiful countryside.
|Scientific Name:||Anas Acuta|
|Female Sound:||Nasally quack|
The northern pintail duck has a very distinguishable appearance due to its exaggerated proportions. They have long, slender bodies and necks with narrow beaks that are slightly curved. Their tails stick very far out, exaggerating their lengthy physique.
Males tend to be a little more flamboyant than females, but both have very similar features. Unlike many other duck species who stick strictly to water, these ducks are known to wander around to different types of land in search of vegetation, particularly farmland.
Even by the water, they prefer the shallow end. These ducks prefer equal time on land and in water, with optimal mobility.
|Scientific Name:||Mereca Strepara|
The gadwall duck feeds into the backdrop a lot of the time because of its plain appearance. There are no distinguishable features that make them stand out among the rest, such as brilliant colors.
These ducks are still dimorphic animals, with males and females looking slightly different. However, they both carry neutral hues of grays and browns.
These ducks prefer areas where they have tons of vegetation to forage. One hilarious and problematic part about this breed is that they love to steal food from hard-working diving ducks when they surface.
|Scientific Name:||Spatula clypeata|
|Male Sound:||Wheezy took-took|
|Female Sound:||Nasally quack|
Northern shovelers get their name due to the design of their beak. Their beak looks like a shovel that they use to dig in mud to find lots of delicious bugs, mollusks, and vegetation to snack on.
What’s really cool is that a duck has tiny little knife-like points on their beaks called lamellae that filter out things that they can’t eat during foraging.
This duck breed really works together. You might see them in a small flock circling in the water in search of vegetation.
Even though males and females look incredibly different, they still have the same basic beak design.
|Scientific Name:||Anas discors|
|Male Sound:||High-pitched whistles|
|Female Sound:||Blunt quacks|
At first glance, you might not know why this duck is called the blue-winged teal. However, after observation during flight, you can see that their underwings are incredibly beautiful with brilliant teal coloring.
However, when they are stationary, they can look pretty plain, with males and females looking remarkably similar. Of course, like many other duck species, the males are much flashier than the females.
This duck is one of the most famous ducks in the United States, falling second only to the mallard. So, you probably are quite familiar with this breed, having seen them around Colorado and its neighboring states.
|Scientific Name:||Anas Carolinesis|
|Male Sound:||Clear whistle|
|Female Sound:||Repetitive, shrill quack|
The green-winged teal, just like the blue-winged teal, has a brilliant green patch on its wings during flight. Part of this is also visible when they are stationary.
In the state of Colorado, these ducks are the smallest dabbling ducks of all, weighing only 18 ounces maximum when fully grown. Males and females look slightly different, as the boys have chestnut-colored heads and tend to be darker in color.
If you see a group of ducks congregated together, and you notice tiny little ducks similar to mallards, you’re probably looking at a green-winged teal. Keep an eye out for them near Colorado’s ponds and lakes.
|Scientific Name:||Anas cyanoptera|
|Male Sound:||Rattling karr-karr|
|Female Sound:||Short gack-gack quack|
Yet another teal rules the roost in Colorado. The cinnamon teal is a bit different from her previously mentioned teal cousins.
Males tend to be rich chocolate and mahogany colors while females are neutrally dabbled, but both have distinct red eyes.
Female cinnamon heels are incredible mothers with top-notch survival insane. However, due to pollution, their numbers have diminished a bit in the past several years.
|Scientific Name:||Aix sponsa|
|Weight:||About a pound|
|Male Sound:||High-pitched toot|
These lesser-known ducks are highly recognizable due to their one-of-a-kind patterns and bold color. While females are much less vibrant than their male counterparts, they still have vibrant blue on their feathers, which can make them stand out in a group.
Wood ducks prefer to have their babies in the abandoned cavities of trees. Little tiny ducklings, they are ready to leave their nest, can jump up to 50 feet to reach the ground. Their parents then teach them the ropes, including learning to fly and hunt.
These guys might be one of the duck species that are the least like average ducks. These are much more like other birds, taking to trees for the majority of their time. These ducks are relatively quiet as they like to keep out of sight of predators.
|Scientific Name:||Anas rubripes|
|Male Sound:||Raspy call|
|Female Sound:||Loud rhythmic quacks|
The American black duck is the largest of its genus Anas. As you can see, these ducks aren’t genuinely all black, but we have an interesting fact for you. Did you know that Daffy Duck on Looney Tunes was modeled after an American black duck? It’s true.
Real American black ducks prefer alkaline marshes and lakes to hang out most of the time. They feed primarily on bank sides foraging for plants and seeds.
Unlike many ducks, the American black duck has a very familiar plumage between males and females. So sometimes it can be challenging to tell them apart.
|Scientific Name:||Aythya valisineria|
|Female Sound:||Wheezing quack|
Canvasback ducks have a pretty unique look, with high peaked heads and red eyes. Even though these ducks are highly recognizable if you see one, they are relatively rare in North America.
These birds prefer deep-water marshes and lakes with free-range access to cattails and other foliage. They spend most of their time on the water without many breaks to go to land. You might see a canvasback leisurely floating on the water with a mate or solo.
Male and female canvasbacks are very similar in structure, but the males are bolder in color. They each have narrow, curved beaks that help them sift through the water for sustenance.
|Scientific Name:||Bucephala albeola|
|Male Sound:||Chattering call|
|Female Sound:||Guttural cuk-cuk|
The bufflehead has an appearance as distinct as its name. This duck is a sight to behold if you so get the pleasure of viewing one in the wild, sporting eye-catching color patterns.
Unlike some migrating ducks, these little critters actually prefer colder temperatures. They spend their winters on the East Coast in states like Massachusetts.
Buffleheads exhibit extremely strong sexual dimorphism, as the males and females look vastly different. The male touts a vibrant green head with bright white portions on its body while the female is mostly brown.
|Scientific Name:||Bucephala clangula|
|Female Sound:||Croaking gack|
The impressive Common Goldeneye duck is a very notable species in Colorado. These ducks fly at incredible speeds, totaling nine wing beats per second. They are lovely at self-sustaining, perfecting skills like swimming and diving.
Goldeneyes hang out near the shorelines to find meals such as small fish, fish eggs, and plant material. They prefer most of the time spent on their water. These ducks don’t do nearly as well on land.
Male and female golden eye ducks look like exact replicas of one another with one slight difference. Males sport a very vibrant green head while females’ heads are chestnut colored.
|Scientific Name:||Aythya collaris|
|Male Sound:||Grating barks|
|Female Sound:||High-pitched peeps|
The ring-necked duck is quite popular in Colorado and you can find it swimming around freshwater ponds and lakes. These little ducks prefer to have foliage around a water source to provide nesting space and shelter.
Rather than having a ring around their neck as their name implies, they actually have white rings around their beaks.
Males have very prominent colors, which are black, gray, and white. Their female counterparts are all neutral colors, with sleek beaks and soft faces.
|Scientific Name:||Aythya Americana|
|Male Sound:||Wheezy wee-ough|
|Female Sound:||Guttural err-err|
The redhead ducks frequent Colorado due to its favorable habitat. They enjoy prevalent vegetation as well as open freshwater sources, preferably nearby prairies.
These ducks bear the nickname “rafting ducks” because they even try to make friends with hunting decoys—these ducks are incredibly social with one another.
Males tout a cinnamon head and black breast with gray feathering. Females mirror the structure including the slender beak, but they have a dusty, tawny-colored feathering.
|Scientific Name:||Oxyura Jamaicensis|
The ruddy duck is a detailed duck whose males have famous sky blue-colored bills. Ruddy ducks might be quite entertaining to watch in the wild, as they are the bullies of the duck world. It’s not uncommon to see these types of ducks chasing off other ducks and even smaller mammals.
Ruddy ducks might be one of the most interesting on our list as they have quite a few fun facts associated with them. First of all, they lay the largest egg in relation to body size of all duck species. Secondly, their ducklings are born far more advanced than most.
But the most hilarious aspect about the ruddy duck is their mating rituals. Male ruddy ducks ready to breed have some pretty odd displays of affection. They run across the water making toot sounds with their webbed feet and stick their tails straight up in the air and aggressively strike their beak on their neck.
Perhaps these waterfowl sparked the expression “odd duck.”
|Scientific Name:||Mergus serrator|
|Male Sound:||Catlike meow|
|Female Sound:||Loud croaking|
If you have a chance to see merganser ducks, you’ll find you’ve run into some pretty interesting-looking waterfowl. The red-breasted merganser is moderately long with a very vivacious hairdo.
These ducks have long, narrow beaks that are serrated to rip and tear small fish. They are perfectly designed to sever and snatch prey. These ducks absolutely love saltwater areas. You can find them in brackish waters, estuaries, and bays.
Interestingly, these ducks are one of the primary species that fly head above tail. It is incredibly fast, reaching flight speeds up to 81 mph.
|Scientific Name:||Mergus merganser|
Common mergansers are very sleek birds, with streamlined bodies and incredible swimming speeds. They are another one of the merganser duck species that inhabit Colorado, though they are a rarer sight than most.
These mergansers, like all others, eat primarily small fish. Common mergansers like to spend their time in moving water, like rivers and streams.
They nest in empty trees for refuge and shelter. Even though the common Merganser is a prevalent duck in North America, you might miss them since they tend to be extremely quiet.
|Scientific Name:||Aythya affinis|
The lesser scaup is a diving duck that visits Colorado when it’s migrating and traveling between the United States and Canada. Often mistaken for their greater scaup cousins, these ducks tend to be slightly smaller with minor marking variations.
These ducks tend to snack mostly on invertebrates and mollusks, but they also love plant material and vegetation. They can dive up to 16 feet for meals.
The lesser scaup is highly noticeable because of its distinctive blue beak. They do differ from ruddy ducks in the sense that the males are all black on the head and chest. Females are all auburn brown and slightly smaller.
|Scientific Name:||Aythya marila|
|Male Sound:||Nasally whistle|
|Female Sound:||Raspy arr-arr|
The greater scaup is nearly identical to its lesser cousin. There are very few discrepancies, including the areas they inhabit. If you were observing ducks, you might have a little trouble identifying which is which.
Greater scaups typically inhabit shallow wetlands that are very open. They like having a straight shot to be able to fly away in the event a predator comes near.
This duck breed definitely eats more mollusks, invertebrates, and other water wildlife than plant material, but they are still omnivorous.
Related Read: What Do Ducks Eat? List of Safe & Dangerous Foods
As you can see, Colorado is home to all sorts of different ducks that contribute to the environment in a fascinating way. Which one of these beautiful waterfowl was your favorite?
Featured Image Credit: Susan Hodgson, Shutterstock
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Ashley Bates is animal writer and enthusiast who is currently studying the art of animal therapy. A mother to four human children— and 23 furry and feathery kids, too – Ashley volunteers at local shelters, advocates for animal well-being, and rescues every creature she finds. Ashley's mission is to create awareness and education about animals of all shapes and sizes to promote proper care and respect.
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