Discovering the Top 15 Most Popular Duck Species

Leave a comment / / Updated on: 6th October 2023

Large group of ducks on a farm | volschenkh via iStock

Birds in the family Anatidae are collectively referred to as ducks 

They’re waterfowls, closely related to swans and geese, and with similar habits. 

However, ducks have a distinct appearance characterized by a smaller size and shorter neck compared to their close relatives.

The duck family is more diverse than you might think. 

There are numerous individual species with remarkably different appearances, habitats, and habits. 

Some are also more famous than others because of their abundance, unique attributes, or widespread distribution. 

In this article, we’ll list 15 of the most popular duck species and discuss some of the most interesting facts about them. 

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15. Red-crested Pochard

Male red-crested pochard
Male red-crested pochard Netta rufina waterfowl foraging in water | Sander Meertins via iStock
Common nameRed-crested pochard
Scientific NameNetta rufina
ClassificationAves, Anseriformes, Anatidae
Wingspan840–880 millimeters (33–35 inches)
Length530–570 millimeters (21–22 inches)
Weight1.1 kilograms (2.4 pounds)
LocationEurope and Central Asia

The red-crested pochard (Netta rufina) has a striking appearance characterized by a bright red bill and a rounded orange head. 

The breast is black, while the flanks are white. 

Females are pale brown, and their face is whitish instead of orange like the males. 

This duck species is commonly found in parts of  Europe and Asia.

It is a migratory duck that spends the winter in Africa and the Indian subcontinent. 

The red-crested pochard feeds mainly on the root, stem, and seeds of aquatic vegetation.

14. Tufted Duck 

tufted duck
Tufted Duck on a London pond in the early morning light | Wayne Marinovich via iStock
Common nameTufted duck
Scientific NameAythya fuligula
ClassificationAves, Anseriformes, Anatidae
Wingspan20–21 centimeters (7.9–8.3 inches)
Length41–46 centimeters (16–18 inches)
Weight889.6 grams (2 pounds)
LocationEurope and Asia

Also known as tufted pochard, the tufted duck (Aythya fuligula) is named after the tuft of feathers found on the back of its head. 

This duck species is widespread in Europe and Asia, with a population of close to a million on both continents. 

It is sometimes found as a migratory species in the United States and Canada. 

Adult males of this species are almost entirely black, except for their white flanks. 

They have gold-yellow eyes and a blue-gray bill. 

Females are brown, and their flanks are gray instead of white. 

The tufted duck’s favorite food is freshwater mussels, but they may sometimes feed on insects and vegetation. 

13. Common Goldeneye 

Common Goldeneye
Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) swimming in the water at winter | Jeff Kingma via iStock
Common nameCommon goldeneye 
Scientific NameBucephala clangula
ClassificationAves, Anseriformes, Anatidae
Wingspan77–83 centimeters (30–33 inches)
Length45–51 centimeters (18–20 inches)
Weight800–1,000 grams (1.8–2.2 pounds)
LocationNorth America & Europe

Common goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) is a medium-sized duck with a distinctive bulbous head and striking yellow or golden-yellow eyes. 

The common name of this bird is a reference to this unique eye color. 

The goldeneye is native to North America and Europe, where they are often seen in northern freshwater habitats.

It is a diving duck that feeds mainly on crustaceans and mollusks that it catches by diving into the water with its entire body. 

The male common goldeneye is known for its complex and elaborate courtship displays, which typically consist of several moves. 

After mating, females lay eggs in natural tree cavities formed by broken tree limbs or nests left behind by woodpeckers and other birds. 

12. Ruddy Duck 

Male Ruddy Duck
A male ruddy duck with breeding colors swims in a pond | jtstewartphoto via iStock
Common nameRuddy duck
Scientific NameOxyura jamaicensis
ClassificationAves, Anseriformes, Anatidae
Wingspan47 centimeters (18.5 inches)
Length34–43 centimeters (13.5–17 inches)
Weight560 grams (1.23 pounds)
LocationNorth America

The ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) is a relatively small diving duck native to North America. 

It is also present in Europe, where it is mainly considered an invasive species. 

The ruddy duck’s bill has a stout scoop shape with a strikingly bright blue color that makes the duck instantly recognizable. 

This duck is known to demonstrate an amusing courtship display that involves vigorous head-bobbing.

The ruddy duck is a type of stiff-tailed duck. 

Members of this group are known for their long, stiff tail, which tends to stand erect when the bird is nesting. 

Ruddy ducks are awkward on land, so they spend most of their time in the water. 

11. Northern shoveler

northern shoveler
A northern shoveler (Spatula clypeata) | Peter Swan via iStock
Common nameNorthern shoveler 
Scientific NameSpatula clypeata
ClassificationAves, Anseriformes, Anatidae
DietCarnivorous (filter feeder)
Wingspan76 centimeters (30 inches)
Length48 centimeters (19 inches)
Weight600 grams (1.3 pounds)
LocationNorth America & Europe 

The northern shoveler is a medium-sized duck species found on virtually all continents.

It is pretty common in Europe, where it is simply referred to as the shoveler. 

The northern shoveler is also North America’s third most abundant bird, with a population of more than five million as of 2015. 

Northern shovelers are known for their distinctive bill, which is broader than that of other duck species. 

The common name of this duck is a reference to this specialized bill. 

The shoveler feeds by swinging its bill from side to side to strain food from the water. 

It mainly feeds on crustaceans and plankton, which it sieves from the water using comb-like structures on the edge of its bill. 

The northern shoveler is a migratory duck that spends winters on the southern edge of its typical range.  

10. Gadwall

Gadwall duck
A Gadwall duck and drake on the lake at Gosforth Park Nature Reserve | Alphotographic via iStock
Common nameGadwall 
Scientific NameMareca strepera
ClassificationAves, Anseriformes, Anatidae
Wingspan78–85 centimeters (31–33 inches)
Length47–58 centimeters (19–23 inches)
Weight850–990 grams (30–35 ounces)
LocationNorth America, Europe, and Central America

The gadwall (Mareca strepera) is a medium-sized duck species found mainly in open wetland habitats across Europe, Asia, Central and North America. 

It is one of the most hunted duck species in the world, with up to 1.7 million birds shot each year. 

Gadwalls are known for their gray plumage and white underparts. 

Females have a darker brown color compared to the male’s gray plumage. 

Although it is a dabbling duck, the gadwall can dive deeper into the water to retrieve food compared to other species of dabbling birds.

In fact, this duck sometimes steals food from proficient diving birds like coots. 

Another unusual quality of this is their tendency to form monogamous pairs. 

Once they pair up during the mating season, males and females only with each other.  

9. American black duck

American black duck
A closeup of the American black duck | Wirestock via iStock
Common nameAmerican black duck
Scientific NameAnas rubripes
ClassificationAves, Anseriformes, Anatidae
Wingspan88–95 centimeters (35–37 inches)
Length54–59 centimeters (21–23 inches)
Weight720–1,640 grams (1.59–3.62 pounds)
LocationNorth America 

As the name implies, the American black duck (Anas rubripes) is native to North America and has a dark plumage. 

Unlike other duck species, where males look remarkably different from females, males and females of this species look pretty similar. 

The major difference between them is in the color of their beak. 

While males tend to have a yellow bill, the bill of female American black ducks are dull green. 

This duck is mainly found in Eastern North America but may migrate towards central North America during winter. 

The American black duck is one of North America’s most commonly targeted game birds. 

It is the heaviest duck species in the Anas genus and one of North America’s biggest ducks.

The American black duck looks very similar to the mallard, and both species are known to interbreed freely. 

8. American Teal 

american teal
American Teal | Alan D. Wilson via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 2.5
Common nameAmerican teal (green-winged teal)
Scientific NameAnas carolinensis
ClassificationAves, Anseriformes, Anatidae
Wingspan52–59 centimeters (20.5–23.2 inches)
Length31–39 centimeters(12.2–15.3 inches)
Weight140–500 grams (4.9–17.6 ounces)
LocationNorth America 

The American teal (Anas carolinensis) is one of the most common North American duck species. 

This duck is mainly found in the northern edge of the United States and the Aleutian Islands. 

It is also known as the green-winged teal due to the gleaming green color of its speculum. 

This duck also has a distinctive green eye patch that extends from all the way to the back of its head. 

The American teal is the smallest dabbling duck species in North America. 

This duck feeds by dabbling to reach submerged aquatic vegetation but is also commonly found grazing plant materials found in mudflats. 

7. American Wigeon 

American Wigeon
A beautiful drake American Wigeon duck swims and feeds in a Colorado pond | Gerald DeBoer via iStock
Common nameAmerican wigeon 
Scientific NameMareca americana
ClassificationAves, Anseriformes, Anatidae
Wingspan76–91 centimeters (30–36 inches)
Length42–59 centimeters (17–23 inches) 
Weight512–1,330 grams (1.129–2.932 pounds)
LocationNorth America

The American wigeon (Mareca americana) is a medium-sized duck native to North America (Canada and the United States). 

It is also known as “baldpate,” a reference to the whitish crown on the forehead of male species of this duck, which gives their round head a bald appearance.  

They are commonly seen dabbling in shallow waters and river deltas of Alaska and Canada but are also quite common in other parts of the continent. 

During the winter, they migrate to the southern half of the United States, all the way to Central America and the northern edge of South America. 

The American wigeon is one of America’s most commonly harvested duck species. 

It has a predominantly vegetarian diet, feeding on floating vegetation. 

This duck can also graze on grasses, clover, winter wheat, and lettuce on land.

6. Common Eider 

Common Male Eider
Common Male Eider | Eddy Geale via iStock
Common nameCommon eiders
Scientific NameSomateria mollissima
ClassificationAves, Anseriformes, Anatidae
Wingspan80–110 centimeters (31–43 inches)
Length50–71 centimeters (19.5–28 inches)
Weight0.81–3.04 kilograms (1.7–6.7 pounds)
LocationNorth America and Europe

The common eider (Somateria mollissima) is a large sea duck commonly found on the northern coasts of Europe and North America. 

It migrates between breeding grounds in the Arctic regions and winters further south in the temperate zones. 

The common eider is Europe’s largest duck species and North America’s second largest (exceeded only by the Muscovy duck). 

This duck is also one of the most abundant birds on both continents, with populations of up to two million. 

Both males and females of this species have a distinctive appearance. 

Males have black and white plumage with some green feathers around the nape. 

Females are typically brown like several other duck species, but have a distinctive head shape. 

Common eiders are carnivorous, with a diet made up predominantly of crustaceans and mollusks. 

5. Northern Pintail

Northern pintail
A Pintail Duck swimming in a freshwater pond | Irving A Gaffney via iStock
Common nameNorthern pintail 
Scientific NameAnas acuta
ClassificationAves, Anseriformes, Anatidae
Wingspan80–95 centimeters (31–37 inches)
Length59–76 centimeters (23–30 inches)
Weight0.45–1.36 kilograms (0.99–3.00 pounds)
LocationNorth America, Asia and Europe

Despite the name, the northern pintail (Anas acuta) is not restricted to North America. 

This duck species is also found in Europe, the Middle East, and India. 

It has a wide distribution range and is commonly seen in freshwater habitats. 

The duck gets its common name from its central long tail feather, which it holds up when waddling through the water. 

The northern pintails are known for their impressive ability to walk well on land, swim efficiently, and fly gracefully for long distances.  

It is a migratory bird that typically spends the winter south of its normal breeding range. 

The northern pintail is similar to the mallard both in size and appearance. 

However, the pintail is more slender, with an elongated neck and tail. 

4. Wood Duck

Wood duck
Male Wood duck | pchoui via iStock
Common nameWood duck
Scientific NameAix sponsa
ClassificationAves, Anseriformes, Anatidae
Wingspan66–73 centimeters (26–29 inches)
Length47–54 centimeters (19–21 inches)
Weight454–862 grams (16.0–30.4 ounces)
LocationNorth America

Wood ducks (Aix sponsa) are renowned for their stunning plumage. 

In fact, the male wood duck is considered one of the most colorful waterfowl in North America. 

This duck’s plumage is characterized by a mix of vibrant colors like green, blue, and red. 

The wood duck’s eyes are red, with a distinctive white flare down its neck. 

Females are less colorful, with warm brown plumage.

Wood ducks are mainly found in wooded swamps, ponds, and creeks in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. 

It is a perching duck, which means it has feet adapted to gripping tree branches and is commonly found nesting in tree cavities. 

Wood ducks are dabbling birds. 

They mainly eat plant materials such as berries, acorns, and seeds.

But they are omnivores, which means they may also feed on insects and other small animals. 

3. Mandarin Duck 

Mandarin duck
Mandarin Duck | Shubham singh Rajput via iStock
Common nameMandarin duck
Scientific NameAix galericulata
Wingspan65–75 centimeters (26–30 inches)
Length41–49 centimeters (16–19 inches)
Weight0.63–1.08 kilograms (1.4–2.4 pounds)
LocationAsia and Europe

The mandarin duck (Aix galericulata) is a close relative of the wood duck. 

Both ducks belong to the same genus, but the mandarin duck is native to East Asia. 

It is also found in the British Isles and Western Europe, where the species was introduced. 

Like its North American relative, the mandarin duck is famous for its colorful appearance. 

Male mandarin ducks have an elaborate plumage with ornate patterns. 

Their cheeks and back are vibrant orange, while the sides are slightly paler. 

Females, on the other hand, have a dull-gray appearance, with gray heads and brown backs. 

In addition to being one of the most beautiful waterfowl, the mandarin duck is also one of the smallest duck species in the world. 

2. Muscovy duck

muscovy duck
Unusual black and white duck or goose with red head and beak | tracielouise via iStock
Common nameMuscovy duck
Scientific NameCairina moschata
ClassificationAves, Anseriformes, Anatidae
Wingspan137–152 centimeters (54–60 inches)
Length66–84 centimeters (26–33 inches)
Weight1.1–4.1 kilograms (2.4–9.0 pounds)
LocationNorth America, South America, Australia and New Zealand 

The Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) is a duck species native to the Americas.

It is most prevalent in Mexico and Central America and also well-known in parts of South America, especially in Argentina and Uruguay. 

Small feral populations of this duck can also be found in New Zealand, Australia, and Europe. 

The Muscovy duck is a large duck. 

Males can weigh as much as seven kilograms (15 pounds) and up to 76 centimeters (30 inches) long on average. 

Muscovy ducks are popular household pets in America but are sometimes raised for meat and eggs. 

It is a non-migratory species typically found near forested swamps, grasslands, and farms near swamps, lakes, or streams.

The domesticated subspecies of the Muscovy duck is known as pato criollo in Spanish. 

This duck is known for its unique black-and-white plumage and warty face.

1. Mallard

mallard duck
Male Mallard duck resting in a marsh in the St. Lawrence River | LaSalle-Photo via iStock
Common nameMallard 
Scientific NameAnas platyrhynchos
ClassificationAves, Anseriformes, Anatidae
Wingspan81–98 centimeters (32–39 inches) 
Length50–65 centimeters (20–26 inches)
Weight0.7–1.6 kilograms (1.5–3.5 lb)
LocationAustralia, Africa, Europe, Asia and the Americas

The mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is the most common duck species in the world. 

It is found on virtually all continents except Antarctica. 

In fact, mallards are so common that they’re considered an invasive species in some countries. 

This duck species is quite adaptable and can survive in urban areas alongside human populations. 

The mallard is the ancestor of most domesticated duck breeds. 

Male mallards are generally more colorful compared to females. 

Females are primarily brown and white, while males have a glossy green head and a white neck. 

The mallard is a dabbling duck. 

This means it mainly feeds on the surface instead of diving. 

It is an omnivore that feeds on plant materials and small animals such as gastropods, crustaceans, insects, and other arthropods. 


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