16 Ducks With White Heads (With Pictures & ID Guide)

Ducks with white heads

White-headed ducks are a fascinating subgroup of waterfowl known for their distinct plumage. Basically, each species has a unique snowy cap that makes them easily recognizable.

However, note that these birds not only captivate with their appearance but also play crucial roles in their ecosystems. They even help farmers by reducing pest populations in rice fields.

In this article, we will cover 16 ducks with white heads. This list is designed to help you identify these birds and find out more about their distinct traits and characteristics. Let’s get started!

16 Ducks With White Heads

1. Muscovy Duck

White headed Muscovy Duck
Origin:Central and South America
Size:26–33 in (66–83.8 cm)
Weight:6–15 lbs (2.7–6.8 kg)
Wingspan:54–64 in (137.2–162.6 cm)
Temperament:Docile, quiet, alert
Lifespan:8–20 years

The Muscovy tops the list of ducks sporting white heads. Known alternatively as Barbarie or Barbary Ducks, their heads are a canvas of white, often dotted with contrasting black spots.

Temperament-wise, note that these birds are favored as companions due to their gentle disposition. One of the recent studies that I have discovered emphasized the high dependency of these ducks on humans.

Specifically, it was revealed that Muscovies need human interaction and attention to develop a healthy social structure and good habits. They will also not thrive in isolation, so they need to be part of a flock.

Additionally, I have observed that my friend’s raft of Muscovy ducks are more like family pets than poultry — they’re so docile. She noted that these birds even boast an intelligent nature.

She described them as being very responsive to her voice and movements, which indicates they’re smart enough to be trained. In fact, they have started recognizing simple commands like “Come here.”

2. White-Headed Duck

White headed Duck
Origin:Europe, Asia, North Africa
Size:17–19 in (43.2–48.3 cm)
Weight:1.2–2 lbs (0.5–0.9 kg)
Wingspan:24.4–27.6 in (62–70.1 cm)
Temperament:Highly aggressive

Inhabiting regions across Europe, Asia, and North Africa, the White-headed Duck is easily recognized by its signature white dome crowned by a distinctive black patch.

Furthermore, you will find that the drakes of this species stand out with their vibrant blue bills. Meanwhile, the hens possess brown-tinted ones.

Despite their striking appearance, White-headed Ducks are not the type to shy away from confrontations. They are very aggressive, especially when it comes to protecting their territory.

Watch this short video to see what White-headed Ducks look like in action:

White-headed duck #waterfowl #duck #animal

Fun Fact: Beyond their spirited nature lies an impressive skill. These birds are categorized as diving ducks, capable of plunging to extraordinary depths of over 40 feet to forage for their meals.

3. White-Headed Steamer-Duck

White headed Steamer Duck
Size:24–29 in (61–73.7 cm)
Weight:7.7–15.4 lbs (3.5–7 kg)
Temperament:Territorial, aggressive

Exclusive to Argentina, the White-headed Steamer-duck is notable for its stark white head. These birds belong to a unique tribe, Tachyerini, within the family Anatidae, marking their distinct place in the duck world.

A 2007 study shed light on their diet, analyzing 45 fecal samples to decipher their feeding habits. The results revealed a diet rich in invertebrates, with crabs, mussels, and ragworms being the most frequent prey found in their feces.

To add to that, not only was their diet diverse, but the study also highlighted their primary feeding strategy: head-neck dipping.

This method, characteristic of diving ducks, involves submerging the head and neck while foraging, a technique well-suited to their rocky coastal and sheltered bay habitats.

4. Smew

White headed Smew duck
Origin:Europe, Asia
Size:14.2–18 in (36.1–45.7 cm)
Weight:1.1–1.8 lbs (0.5–0.8 kg)
Wingspan:21.7–27.2 in (55.1–69.1 cm)
Temperament:Shy, flighty
Lifespan:1–8 years

Distinguished by its crisp white head adorned with a spiky crest, the Smew is the sole extant member of the genus Mergellus.

Specifically, these ducks are a unique sight, with the males displaying a pattern of black lines across their bodies that contrasts sharply with their white plumage. Females, while more subdued in color, wear a dignified gray.

Found spanning the waterways of Europe and Asia, Smews favor the lakes and slow rivers of these regions. Their habitat preferences ensure they have ample access to their selected diet throughout the year.

So, even though these ducks adjust their palate seasonally — feasting on aquatic insects during the summer and switching to small fish in the colder months — they can always find something tasty to eat.

5. Paradise Shelduck

White headed Paradise Shelduck
Origin:New Zealand
Size:24.8–27.6 in (63–70.1 cm)
Weight:3.1–3.7 lbs (1.4–1.7 kg)
Lifespan:2.3–23 years

Native to New Zealand, the Paradise Shelduck is well-known for its sexual dimorphism. Hens feature striking white heads, while drakes display black ones. This contrast makes it easy to tell males and females apart.

Adding to their looks, these ducks are robust, with large body frames, black legs, dark gray bills, and a general rufous-brown plumage.

Favoring open spaces, Paradise Shelducks are often spotted in pastures and along riverbeds, yet they are no strangers to urban settings, such as public parks.

Fun Fact: In another blog, it was mentioned that these fowls typically mate for life, meaning they tend to form strong bonds with their partners. They will return to the same nesting site year after year.

6. Steller’s Eider

White headed Stellers Eider
Size:16.9–18.5 in (42.9–47 cm)
Weight:1.8–1.9 lbs (0.8–0.9 kg)
Wingspan:27.6–30.3 in (70.1–77 cm)
Temperament:Agile, sociable, bold
Lifespan:2–23 years

Tiniest among the four eider species, the Steller’s Eider is distinguished by its predominantly white head with a unique touch of green at the back. Yet, note that it’s just the drakes that possess such an eye-catching headgear.

Contrastingly, the females wear a more conservative attire, cloaked in brown plumage that provides excellent camouflage in their preferred habitats.

On top of that, Steller’s Eiders feature eye-catching blue wing patches and white wing linings, coupled with blue-gray feet. They also flaunt gray bills, which are longer than those of any other eider breeds.

Fun Fact: Each year, these ducks embark on epic trips; they migrate up to 4,800 kilometers. To be exact, they nest in the secluded tundras of Arctic Russia and endure the cold winters in the waters near the Alaska Peninsula.

7. Hooded Merganser

White headed Hooded Merganser
Origin:North America
Size:15.7–19.3 in (39.9–49 cm)
Weight:1.2–1.5 lbs (0.5–0.7 kg)
Wingspan:22.4–28 in (56.9–71.1 cm)
Temperament:Solitary, quiet, easily startled
Lifespan:10–15 years

Another duck with a white and black head that you should know about is the Hooded Merganser. These birds are easily recognized by their “hood” or fan-like crest.

Primarily, males flaunt a stunning black and white crest, while females display a subtler brown one.

To add to that, greenish legs and feet, thin beaks, brown eyes, and long tails round out their distinct physical characteristics. 

Found across North America, Hooded Mergansers have a preference for tree-lined bodies of water, such as wooded lakes and coastal estuaries, as well as ponds and rivers.

They have a diet typical of sea ducks, predominantly consuming fish, crustaceans, and aquatic insects, which they skillfully hunt with their sharp vision, both above and below the water’s surface.

8. Torrent Duck

White headed Torrent Duck
Origin:South America
Size:17–18 in (43.2–45.7 cm)
Weight:0.7–1 lbs (0.3–0.5 kg)
Wingspan:23–27 in (58.4–68.6 cm)
Temperament:Bold, territorial
Lifespan:13–20 years

Commonly found in South America, the Torrent Duck features a striking sexual dimorphism: males with white-capped heads and females with gray.

A 2009 study provided insights into these fowls’ monogamous breeding habits, revealing that females typically leave the nest for hours during the day, with males remaining nearby but not participating in incubation.

This same study stressed that their incubation period lasts between 43 and 44 days.

Post-hatching, the ducklings are trained by their parents to navigate various habitats, including fast-flowing mountain rivers, streams, and torrents.

Regarding their diet, another study found that Torrent Ducks don’t necessarily seek out high-energy-yielding prey. Their meals primarily comprise caddisfly, mayfly, black fly, and Gripopterygid larvae.

9. Ancona Duck

White headed Ancona duck
Origin:United Kingdom
Weight:5–6.5 lbs (2.3–2.9 kg)
Temperament:Calm, friendly, active
Lifespan:5–10 years

Up next is the Ancona. These ducks sport a remarkable white and black mottled head, a pattern they’ve inherited from their Huttegem Duck ancestors.

Further enhancing their unique appearance is their yellow bills with black mottling, which stands out against their white face. You will see that their orange legs and feet are similarly speckled, as well. Beyond aesthetics, however, Anconas serve practical purposes.

A colleague of mine has an entire flock of Anconas in his backyard, and he shared that they’re some of the best egg-layers he’s ever had. As a matter of fact, he noted that they can produce up to 280 eggs annually.

What’s more, he mentioned that some of his birds are raised for meat — they require only eight weeks’ time before they’re ready to go.

He praised the docile nature of his Anconas above all else. He found their friendly demeanor much easier to handle than that of other duck breeds.

10. Long-Tailed Duck

White headed Long tailed Duck
Origin:North America, Europe, Asia
Size:15–18.5 in (38.1–47 cm)
Weight:1.6–2.1 lbs (0.7–1 kg)
Wingspan:26–32 in (66–81.3 cm)
Temperament:Sociable, active, talkative
Lifespan:15–22 years

Once known as the Oldsquaw, the Long-tailed Duck is distinguishable by its white head. However, note that it’s these fowls’ tail feathers that truly set them apart from other ducks — they’re long and slim.

Also sporting small beaks and gray-tinted legs, Long-tailed Ducks are built for their water-loving lifestyle. In fact, they travel across North America, Europe, and Asia, often inhabiting tundras, marshes, and ponds.

Meanwhile, as sea ducks, you can anticipate that these birds are adept at diving for a diet rich in mollusks, small fish, crustaceans, fish eggs, and marine insects.

With regard to temperament, Long-tailed Ducks are known for being chatty. They are also very active and sociable.

11. Spectacled Eider

White headed Spectacled Eider
Size:20–22 in (50.8–55.9 cm)
Weight:2.5–4.1 lbs (1.1–1.9 kg)
Wingspan:33–37 in (83.8–93.9 cm)
Temperament:Social, non-aggressive
Lifespan:15–18 years

Originally from Alaska, the Spectacled Eider is identifiable by its distinct white head. The males, in particular, display evident white eye patches that stand out against the grayish-green feathers at the back of their heads.

Listed as “Threatened” under the U.S. Endangered Species Act since 1993, these ducks face conservation challenges.

To be specific, one contributing factor to their declining population is the high mortality rate of adult females during brood rearing, as revealed in a study conducted in the early 90s.

Similarly, note that the IUCN Red List categorizes Spectacled Eiders as “Near Threatened,” which means they are really at risk of becoming extinct in the near future.

When it comes to habitat, however, these ducks often inhabit wet tundra regions.

12. Bufflehead

White headed Bufflehead duck
Origin:North America
Size:12.7–15.8 in (32.3–40.1 cm)
Weight:0.6–1.4 lbs (0.3–0.6 kg)
Wingspan:22–24 in (55.9–61 cm)
Temperament:Active, aggressive
Lifespan:2.5–18 years

Hailing from North America, the Bufflehead boasts a large, round head with a striking color palette of black, white, and a shimmering green or purple patch.

This bold combination makes these fowls one of the most easy-to-recognize ducks with white heads. This is unsurprising, as their vibrant plumage sparkles, particularly under the sun.

In addition, Buffleheads retain gray beaks, chubby bodies, and short wings. Small in size, they are nonetheless noticeable, especially when seen in large numbers.

Regarding habitat, these birds are often spotted in ponds and lakes. Yet, come the nesting season, they seek out hollow tree cavities to lay their eggs, with clutches ranging from 5 to 11.

Their diet is diverse, including insects, mollusks, crustaceans, and plant matter, which reflects their adaptability and omnivorous nature.

13. White-Faced Whistling-Duck

White Faced Whistling Duck
Origin:Sub-Saharan Africa, South America
Size:15–20 in (38.1–50.8 cm)
Weight:1–1.5 lbs (0.5–0.7 kg)
Wingspan:33.9–37 in (86.1–94 cm)
Temperament:Noisy, docile, highly social
Lifespan:10–15 years

The White-faced Whistling-duck carries an unusual head with a notable half-white, half-black coloration, which immediately catches the eye of any observer.

Along with their distinctive head pattern, these ducks have gray bills and feet, contrasting with their reddish-brown body feathers. Plus, they sport very long legs that are well-suited for their semi-aquatic lifestyle.

When it comes to origin, White-faced Whistling-ducks hail from the warm climates of Sub-Saharan Africa and South America, wherein they thrive in both regions’ diverse ecosystems.

Fun Fact: These birds exhibit an odd behavior when threatened — they just stand still. This instinct, unfortunately, makes them more vulnerable to predators.

14. Crested Duck

White headed Crested Duck
Size:20–24 in (50.8–61 cm)
Weight:5–7 lbs (2.3–3.2 kg)
Temperament:Calm, amiable, shy, jumpy
Lifespan:8–20 years

Coming up is the Crested Duck, which is another duck with a white head. These water birds date back to the 16th century and are made even more special by their distinct cotton-like crests.

With their medium-length necks and elongated tails, they also carry vibrant orange feet and beaks. These characteristics not only make them visually appealing but also serve well for their survival in the wild.

As dabblers, Crested Ducks are often spotted bobbing on water surfaces, including marshes, lakes, ponds, and coastal bays. This makes sense, as they feed on amphipods, kelps, larvae, slugs, and plants.

Beyond their diets and snowy looks, though, the exact origin of these ducks remains shrouded in mystery. Yet, they are a common sight throughout South America.

15. Radjah Shelduck

White headed Radjah Shelduck
Origin:Australia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea
Size:18.9–23.6 in (48–59.9 cm)
Weight:1.3–2.5 lbs (0.6–1.1 kg)
Wingspan:35.4–39.4 in (64.5–100.1 cm)
Temperament:Very aggressive, territorial
Lifespan:5–15 years

The Radjah Shelduck, with its prominent white head, is native to Australia, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea. Yet, beyond their white plumage, these birds exhibit blackish wingtips and a collar of dark feathers.

According to a study, Radjah Shelducks, belonging to the Tadornini tribe, can be aggressive. However, it has been highlighted that their attacks are generally directed towards birds of equal or smaller size.

The same study also emphasized the distinct vocalizations of these ducks. Females produce a gaspy, soft-pitched sound that is quite different from the typical duck quack.

In contrast, the male calls are more substantial, louder, and more varied than those of Radjah Shelduck hens.

16. Common Eider

White headed Common Eider
Origin:North America
Size:19–28 in (48.3–71.1 cm)
Weight:2.9–5.9 lbs (1.3–2.7 kg)
Wingspan:37.4–38.6 in (95–98 cm)
Temperament:Affable, wary, calm, shy
Lifespan:7–22 years

Known scientifically as Somateria mollissima, the Common Eider is a North American duck with a white head accented with black and yellowish hues.

Currently, the IUCN classifies Common Eiders as “Near Threatened,” pointing to a concerning decline in their population. Various factors contribute to this status, including environmental and health challenges.

As a matter of fact, recent studies have uncovered various health issues plaguing the species, which include vulnerability to parasites leading to severe bacterial infections.

These health challenges are compounded by other factors, such as predation and nutritional deficiencies.

As molluscivores, these fowls’ diet primarily consists of mollusks, bivalves, echinoderms, and cephalopods. This dietary preference reflects their ability to dive deep into water in search of food.

We hope you learned a lot about white-headed ducks from this article. If you have any thoughts or further questions, please share them in the comments section below!

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