13 Different Types of Ducks (With Examples & Pictures)

Different types of ducks walking on a farm

When discussing waterfowl, the diverse types of ducks often take center stage. From dabbling ducks to diving ones and everything in between, there’s basically a duck for every bird enthusiast.

These avians, often found in freshwater habitats, come in an array of shapes, sizes, and coloration. However, they are categorized into several groups or types based on their diet and appearance.

In this article, we’ll explore 13 examples of these groups and explain why they are classified as such. You’ll also find a complete list of duck species below, so be sure to check it out. Let’s begin!

13 Different Types of Ducks

1. Dabbling Ducks

Dabbling duck
Description:Surface-feeding ducks
Common Species:Mallard, American Wigeon, Gadwall, Northern Pintail
Habitat:Wet meadows, water sloughs, emergent marshes, ponds, wooded swamps, grain fields, lakes, bays
Diet:Aquatic vegetation, insects, crop grains, seeds, sedges, worms, gastropods, aquatic invertebrates
Typical Behavior:Vocal, social

First on our list is the group of dabbling ducks. You might also hear them referred to as puddle ducks, surface-feeding ducks, dipping ducks, or simply dabblers.

These birds are called as such because they prefer to feed at the water’s surface, rarely diving deep. Instead, they will tip forward and submerge only their heads to grab a snack.

The preferred habitats of dabblers range from wet meadows and water sloughs to emergent marshes and wooded swamps. They’re even known to frequent grain fields, ponds, lakes, and bays.

These diverse environments cater to their mixed diet, which includes aquatic vegetation, insects, seeds, and crop grains. They’ll also munch on sedges, worms, and gastropods.

Some common species of dabbling ducks are Mallards, Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintails, American Wigeons, and Gadwalls.

2. Diving Ducks

Diving duck
Description:Ducks that dive beneath the water’s surface to find food
Common Species:Canvasback, Redhead, Greater Scaup
Habitat:Lakes, marshes, rivers, reservoirs, streams
Diet:Fish, mollusks, crustaceans, aquatic plants, insects
Typical Behavior:Flighty, sociable

Diving ducks are another unique category to this list. Unlike dabblers, these ducks submerge themselves underwater in search of food. In fact, they can dive at impressive depths, sometimes reaching 40 feet or more.

Yet, what’s even more amazing is these birds’ speed. Many of their dives last mere minutes, often just 30 to 120 seconds.

Additionally, recognizable species within this group include Canvasbacks, Redheads, Greater Scaups, and Lesser Scaups.

On another note, you’ll typically spot flocks of these divers in large bodies of water, like vast lakes, rivers, marshes, reservoirs, and flowing streams. Their diet is equally diverse; they eat fish, mollusks, crustaceans, and aquatic insects.

Fun Fact: While they’re excellent swimmers, diving ducks are also proficient fliers thanks to their compact build. However, when danger lurks, these fowls’ go-to defense is to really dive deep.

3. Perching Ducks

Perching duck
Description:Ducks that perch high in trees
Common Species:Muscovy, Mandarin
Habitat:Wet woodlands, rocky streams
Diet:Water plants, insects, nuts, fish, snails, crop grains, seeds, sedges, worms
Typical Behavior:Highly social, aggressive, territorial

Perching ducks offer a distinct twist in the duck world; they have a knack for settling high up in tree cavities. This arboreal lifestyle of them has led to some unique adaptations.

Notably, their wings are shorter compared to other ducks. However, these wings aren’t just for show; they allow perching ducks to navigate swiftly through densely wooded areas.

Meanwhile, their diet is reminiscent of dabblers. During field observations, my colleagues and I found that these ducks target water plants, fish, and insects as food sources.

Yet, I have also noted that acorns and berries also make up a large part of their meals.

Additionally, the Muscovy and the Mandarin are two well-known representatives of this duck category.

4. Sea Ducks

Sea duck
Description:Ducks that live in nearshore habitats
Common Species:Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser
Habitat:Large lakes, tidal rivers, salt bays, oceans
Diet:Small fish, crustaceans, bivalves, snails, marine plants
Typical Behavior:Aggressive, territorial

Up next are sea ducks. They are primarily coastal dwellers found in areas like large lakes, tidal rivers, salt bays, and oceans.

An impressive adaptation they’ve developed is specialized glands, which allow them to thrive in these saltwater environments without facing dehydration.

However, while their primary habitat is coastal, bear in mind that these ducks aren’t restricted to the seas. During nesting or migration periods, or if marine food becomes scarce, they’re known to reside inland.

Among the many sea duck species, Common Goldeneyes, Buffleheads, and Hooded Mergansers are especially notable.

5. Stifftails

Description:Diving ducks with spiky, stiff tail feathers
Common Species:Ruddy Duck, Masked Duck, Blue-billed Duck
Habitat:Wetlands, lakes, small bays, harbors, shallow marshes
Diet:Aquatic insects, roots, plants, crustaceans, mollusks
Typical Behavior:Active, very assertive

Also termed stiff-tailed ducks, stifftails are easily recognizable by their spiky, upright tail feathers.

Primarily, while foraging underwater, these ducks use their tails as rudders, which aid in navigation as they search for their favorite meals, like aquatic insects, roots, plants, and mollusks.

Beyond functional use, though, these spiky tails play a part in social displays. Particularly during breeding or territorial disputes, stiff-tailed ducks will display their tail feathers upward to warn off potential rivals or predators.

Familiar faces within the stifftail category include the Ruddy, Masked, and Blue-billed Duck.

6. Shelducks

Description:Large ducks with goose-like body frames
Common Species:Australian Shelduck, Ruddy Shelduck, Egyptian Goose
Habitat:Reservoirs, rivers, freshwater lakes, swamps
Diet:Aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, grasses, plants
Typical Behavior:Sociable, loud

If you are familiar with the Ruddy Shelduck or Egyptian Goose, then you should know that they are both members of the same tribe: shelducks.

Shelducks stand out among other duck types due to their large size and goose-like appearance. They also often sport two-toned feathers, which make them visually unique from their counterparts.

Specifically, these birds exhibit a distinctive wing pattern. They feature white coverts adorned with shimmering patches on either their secondaries or greater secondary coverts.

As for their habitat preferences, shelducks predominantly favor aquatic surroundings such as reservoirs, rivers, and swamps.

When it comes to sustenance, their diet overlaps with that of dabbling ducks. They thrive on a mix of aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates supplemented with grasses and plants.

7. Mergansers

Description:Diving ducks that mainly feed on fish
Common Species:Red-breasted Merganser, Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser
Habitat:Inland lakes, coastal bays, rivers, wooded streams
Diet:Fish, crustaceans, mollusks, reptiles, worms, amphibians
Typical Behavior:Social, quiet

Mergansers stand out among ducks for their specialized meals. Mainly feeding on fish, they boast narrow, hooked bills tailor-made for such a task.

However, even though this is their primary source of nutrition, keep in mind that mergansers aren’t confined to a fish-only diet. They also consume crustaceans, mollusks, reptiles, worms, and amphibians.

Habitually, these fowls can be found in diverse aquatic settings — from inland lakes and wooded streams to coastal bays and flowing rivers.

Furthermore, you should know that species like the Red-breasted Merganser, Common Merganser, and Hooded Merganser are the stars in this group.

8. Goldeneyes

Description:Diving ducks with large heads and iridescent sheen
Common Species:Barrow’s Goldeneye, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead
Habitat:Forested lakes, seacoasts, salt bays, estuaries, shallow rivers
Diet:Larvae, crustaceans, mollusks, salmon eggs, small fish
Typical Behavior:Territorial, hostile

Goldeneyes are ducks with a distinctive feature: bright yellow-tinted eyes. They also boast large heads and an iridescent glow, which makes them quite recognizable.

Basically, only three species exist in this category: the Barrow’s Goldeneye, Common Goldeneye, and the Bufflehead.

With regard to habitat, these fowls like forested lakes, salt bays, and rivers. Seacoasts and estuaries are also on their list. Yet, when it’s nesting time, they choose tree holes to lay their eggs and raise their ducklings.

Concerning food, goldeneyes have a mixed diet. They feast on larvae, crustaceans, and mollusks. They enjoy salmon eggs and small fish, too.

However, watch out if you approach their domain. These ducks are known to be territorial and can be quite hostile if they feel intimidated.

9. Eiders

Description:Sea ducks found in northern Arctic habitats
Common Species:King Eider, Common Eider, Spectacled Eider
Habitat:Rocky ocean shores, wet tundra regions
Diet:Urchins, fish eggs, marine worms, mollusks, aquatic insects
Typical Behavior:Vocal, attentive

Have you ever wondered what type of duck resides in the northern Arctic? Meet the eiders, a group of sea ducks that have adapted to chilly environments.

These birds are especially cherished for their thick down that provides unparalleled insulation against the biting cold. In fact, they were hunted to near extinction because of their luxurious plumage.

Among this tribe, three notable species stand out: the King Eider, Common Eider, and Spectacled Eider. These ducks favor rocky ocean shores and wet tundra regions for their habitat.

Beyond their physical attributes, eiders are well-known for being loud. They also tend to be very attentive, which makes them more than capable of defending themselves if needed.

10. Scoters

Description:Sea ducks that boast bulky, dark-colored builds
Common Species:Surf Scoter, Velvet Scoter, Common Scoter
Habitat:Shallow lakes, low-lying wet tundras, shrubland, meadows
Diet:Mollusks, echinoderms, marine worms, sedges, pondweeds, crustaceans, tiny fish
Typical Behavior:Silent, calm

Another group of sea ducks are the scoters. These fowls are known for their robust, dark builds. Setting them apart further are their unique beaks, which appear swollen and brightly patterned with striking colors.

Different from many of their peers, scoters are notably silent and exude a calm demeanor. They’re commonly found in habitats stretching from shallow lakes and wet tundras to shrublands and meadows.

When it comes to their meals, these ducks have a preference for mollusks, echinoderms, and marine worms. Not to forget, sedges, crustaceans, pondweeds, and tiny fish are also on their menu.

11. Whistling Ducks

Whistling duck
Description:Ducks with shrill whistling calls
Common Species:Black-bellied Whistling-duck, Lesser Whistling-duck, Fulvous Whistling-duck
Habitat:Near shallow waters, cultivated fields, prairies, pastures
Diet:Crops, seeds, aquatic plants, insects
Typical Behavior:Aggressive, social

As the name suggests, whistling ducks are characterized by their sharp, high-pitched calls. Yet, besides their distinctive whistles, they’re also known for being skilled fliers.

In appearance, these ducks are a standout with their elongated legs and necks. Their bodies are mostly covered in brown pigmentation, which further sets them apart from other types of ducks.

Though they can sometimes be aggressive, whistling ducks are generally sociable birds. They’re typically found near shallow waters, pastures, and cultivated fields.

The Black-bellied Whistling-duck, Lesser Whistling-duck, and Fulvous Whistling-duck are among the more recognized species in this tribe.

12. Teals

Description:Dabbling ducks with bright speculums on their wings
Common Species:Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal, Cinnamon Teal
Habitat:Marshes, rivers, fresh ponds, flooded rice fields, reservoirs
Diet:Seeds, grains, aquatic vegetation, insects, mollusks, crustaceans
Typical Behavior:Very social, agile, fiercely territorial

Coming up are teals. They’re a captivating subgroup of dabbling ducks, easily recognized by the vibrant speculums on their wings. The Cinnamon Teal, Green-winged Teal, and Blue-winged Teal are all part of this tribe.

Temperament-wise, these birds are both social and agile in nature. However, don’t let their friendly demeanor fool you; they can be fiercely territorial when necessary.

On a different note, these ducks gravitate towards habitats such as marshes, fresh ponds, and even flooded rice fields. They also like living close to rivers and reservoirs.

Regarding nutrition, teals are omnivorous like other types of ducks. They enjoy eating mollusks and crustaceans in addition to grains and seeds.

13. Domestic Ducks

Domestic duck
Description:Ducks kept as pets
Common Species:American Pekin, Call, Rouen, Saxony
Habitat:Open ponds, paddling pools, gardens, zoos, farms
Diet:Pellets, mealworms, vegetable peels, non-citrus fruits, seeds
Typical Behavior:Docile, playful, affectionate

Domestic ducks conclude our list. Unlike their wild counterparts, these ducks live alongside humans, often kept as beloved pets. Some are even raised for their meat and eggs or showcased in breeding exhibitions.

In particular, popular domestic species, often hybrids, include the American Pekin, Call, Rouen, Bali, and Saxony. You’ll find them in diverse habitats, from gardens and open ponds to zoos and farms.

As for their menu, domestic ducks enjoy eating a variety of foods, including pellets, grains, and vegetables. They also have a sweet tooth for fruits like berries and bananas.

Above all, these birds are cherished for their temperament. My friend once adopted two American Pekins, Dolly and Max. Far from wild ones, she found that they were affectionate and gentle with her. They were very playful, too.

Complete List of Duck Species

Three ducks communicating

Generally speaking, the duck world is a very populated place. So, if you are wondering what all of the various species of ducks are, there is a list below to help you out.

Here are a total of 165 different duck species, along with their scientific names:

  1. Abacot Ranger (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)
  2. African Black Duck (Anas sparsa)
  3. African Comb Duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos)
  4. African Pygmy-goose (Nettapus auritus)
  5. American Black Duck (Anas rubripes)
  6. American Comb Duck (Sarkidiornis sylvicola)
  7. American Pekin (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)
  8. American White-winged Scoter (Melanitta deglandi)
  9. American Wigeon (Mareca americana)
  10. Amsterdam Duck (Anas marecula)
  11. Ancona Duck (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)
  12. Andaman Teal (Anas albogularis)
  13. Andean Duck (Oxyura ferruginea)
  14. Andean Teal (Anas andium)
  15. Auckland Islands Teal (Anas aucklandica)
  16. Australasian Shoveler (Spatula rhynchotis)
  17. Australian Call Duck (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)
  18. Australian Shelduck (Tadorna tadornoides)
  19. Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata)
  20. Aylesbury Duck (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)
  21. Baer’s Pochard (Aythya baeri)
  22. Baikal Teal (Sibirionetta formosa)
  23. Bali Duck (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)
  24. Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica)
  25. Black East Indian Duck (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)
  26. Black Scoter (Melanitta americana)
  27. Black-bellied Whistling-duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis)
  28. Black-headed Duck (Heteronetta atricapilla)
  29. Blue Duck (Hymenolaimus malacorhynchos)
  30. Blue Swedish (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)
  31. Blue-billed Duck (Oxyura australis)
  32. Blue-billed Teal (Spatula hottentota)
  33. Blue-winged Teal (Spatula discors)
  34. Brazilian Merganser (Mergus octosetaceus)
  35. Brazilian Teal (Amazonetta brasiliensis)
  36. Brown Teal (Anas chlorotis)
  37. Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)
  38. Call Duck (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)
  39. Campbell Islands Teal (Anas nesiotis)
  40. Canvasback (Aythya valisineria)
  41. Cape Shoveler (Spatula smithii)
  42. Cape Teal (Anas capensis)
  43. Cayuga Duck (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)
  44. Chestnut Teal (Anas castanea)
  45. Chiloe Wigeon (Mareca sibilatrix)
  46. Chinese Spot-billed Duck (Anas zonorhyncha)
  47. Cinnamon Teal (Spatula cyanoptera)
  48. Common Eider (Somateria mollissima)
  49. Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
  50. Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)
  51. Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
  52. Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra)
  53. Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
  54. Common Teal (Anas crecca)
  55. Cotton Pygmy-goose (Nettapus coromandelianus)
  56. Crested Duck (Lophonetta specularioides)
  57. Crested Shelduck (Tadorna cristata)
  58. Dutch Hook Bill Duck (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)
  59. Eastern Spot-billed Duck (Anas zonorhyncha)
  60. Eaton’s Pintail (Anas eatoni)
  61. Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
  62. Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope)
  63. Falcated Duck (Mareca falcata)
  64. Falkland Steamerduck (Tachyeres brachypterus)
  65. Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca)
  66. Finsch’s Duck (Chenonetta finschi)
  67. Flightless Steamerduck (Tachyeres pteneres)
  68. Flying Steamerduck (Tachyeres patachonicus)
  69. Freckled Duck (Stictonetta naevosa)
  70. Fulvous Whistling-duck (Dendrocygna bicolor)
  71. Gadwall (Mareca strepera)
  72. Garganey (Spatula querquedula)
  73. Golden Cascade Duck (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)
  74. Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)
  75. Green Pygmy-goose (Nettapus pulchellus)
  76. Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis)
  77. Grey Teal (Anas gracilis)
  78. Hardhead (Aythya australis)
  79. Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus)
  80. Hartlaub’s Duck (Pteronetta hartlaubii)
  81. Hawaiian Duck (Anas wyvilliana)
  82. Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)
  83. Hottentot Teal (Anas hottentota)
  84. Indian Runner (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)
  85. Khaki Campbell (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)
  86. King Eider (Somateria spectabilis)
  87. Labrador Duck (Camptorhynchus labradorius)
  88. Lake Duck (Oxyura vittata)
  89. Laysan Duck (Anas laysanensis)
  90. Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)
  91. Lesser Whistling-duck (Dendrocygna javanica)
  92. Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis)
  93. Maccoa Duck (Oxyura maccoa)
  94. Madagascar Pochard (Aythya innotata)
  95. Madagascar Teal (Anas bernieri)
  96. Magellanic Steamerduck (Tachyeres pteneres)
  97. Magpie Duck (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)
  98. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
  99. Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata)
  100. Maned Duck (Chenonetta jubata)
  101. Marbled Teal (Marmaronetta angustirostris)
  102. Masked Duck (Nomonyx dominicus)
  103. Meller’s Duck (Anas melleri)
  104. Mottled Duck (Anas fulvigula)
  105. Muscovy Duck (Cairina moschata)
  106. Musk Duck (Biziura lobata)
  107. New Zealand Scaup (Aythya novaeseelandiae)
  108. Northern Pintail (Anas acuta)
  109. Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)
  110. Orinoco Goose (Neochen jubata)
  111. Orpington Duck (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)
  112. Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa)
  113. Paradise Shelduck (Tadorna variegata)
  114. Philippine Duck (Anas luzonica)
  115. Pink-eared Duck (Malacorhynchus membranaceus)
  116. Pink-headed Duck (Rhodonessa caryophyllacea)
  117. Plumed Whistling-duck (Dendrocygna eytoni)
  118. Puna Teal (Spatula puna)
  119. Radjah Shelduck (Radjah radjah)
  120. Red Shoveler (Spatula platalea)
  121. Red-billed Teal (Anas erythrorhyncha)
  122. Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
  123. Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina)
  124. Redhead (Aythya americana)
  125. Reunion Shelduck (Alopochen kervazoi)
  126. Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)
  127. Ringed Teal (Callonetta leucophrys)
  128. Rosy-billed Pochard (Netta peposaca)
  129. Rouen Clair (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)
  130. Rouen Duck (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)
  131. Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)
  132. Ruddy Shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea)
  133. Salvadori’s Teal (Salvadorina waigiuensis)
  134. Saxony Duck (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)
  135. Scaly-sided Merganser (Mergus squamatus)
  136. Siberian Scoter (Melanitta stejnegeri)
  137. Silver Appleyard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)
  138. Silver Teal (Spatula versicolor)
  139. Smew (Mergellus albellus)
  140. South African Shelduck (Tadorna cana)
  141. Southern Pintail (Anas eatoni)
  142. Southern Pochard (Netta erythrophthalma)
  143. Spectacled Duck (Speculanas specularis)
  144. Spectacled Eider (Somateria fischeri)
  145. Spotted Whistling-duck (Dendrocygna guttata)
  146. Steller’s Eider (Polysticta stelleri)
  147. Sunda Teal (Anas gibberifrons)
  148. Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata)
  149. Torrent Duck (Merganetta armata)
  150. Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
  151. Velvet Scoter (Melanitta fusca)
  152. Wandering Whistling-duck (Dendrocygna arcuata)
  153. West Indian Whistling-duck (Dendrocygna arborea)
  154. Western Spot-billed Duck (Anas poecilorhyncha)
  155. White Layer Duck (Anas platyrhynchos domesticus)
  156. White-backed Duck (Thalassornis leuconotus)
  157. White-cheeked Pintail (Anas bahamensis)
  158. White-faced Whistling-duck (Dendrocygna viduata)
  159. White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala)
  160. White-headed Steamerduck (Tachyeres leucocephalus)
  161. White-winged Duck (Asarcornis scutulata)
  162. Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)
  163. Yellow-billed Duck (Anas undulata)
  164. Yellow-billed Pintail (Anas georgica)
  165. Yellow-billed Teal (Anas flavirostris)

This section has also listed all the ducks that have been identified in the IUCN Red List. You may have noticed, however, that some new ones have also been included here — particularly domestic breeds.

Hopefully, this article has given you a good overview of the different types of ducks. If you have any thoughts or questions, share them in the comments!

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