Duck Species North America

For all waterfowl hunters, becoming knowledgeable about the various varieties of Northern hemisphere ducks is essential.

Once you are familiar with all the many kinds of ducks, it becomes simpler to recognize them in the wild. Not to mention, based on the kind of location you want, you may choose each one.

Therefore, before embarking on active hunting adventures, it would be better if you started by knowing the 20 Best Duck Species to Hunt in North America.

Top 20 Best Ducks To Hunt In North America

Common Merganser

When hunting in the outdoors, the Common Merganser is one duck you could encounter. It is distinguished by its diminutive stature and sleek, slender body characteristics. It also has a small beak with a hooked bill that has serrated edges.

The Common Merganser has the greatest fondness for fish of any species of duck. When compared to other ducks, they eat a lot of seafood. In contrast to their rivals, they can hunt and consume meat with ease thanks to the shape of their beaks. But wait, there’s more—they are voracious hunters because they chase other animals in the water.


Males are distinguished by their brilliant green heads, slender white collars, dark reddish-brown chests, yellow bills, and black butts with white-tipped tails.

Females have brown bills that are speckled orange and brown.

Both sexes have additional feathers on their wing that are purple-blue in color and are most noticeable when they are standing or flying.

I imagine that practically everyone has heard of the mallard. These ducks are unquestionably the most prevalent species in the US!

These adaptive ducks are so common because mallards are very at ease among people. No matter where a wetland environment is located, they may be found there. Every summer, we even see Mallards in our pool, which we have to shoo away in order to prevent a mess on our deck.

Mallards happily tolerate artificial buildings that people have created for them. To enjoy some cute ducklings wandering around your property, feel free to build a handmade nesting spot if you have a nice pond or marsh. Just be careful to erect predator guards to prevent predators from accessing the eggs.

Northern Pintail

The Northern Pintail is distinguished by its beautiful and streamlined appearance more than by its distinctive plumage. The Northern Pintail drake is the most distinctive species and is renowned for its remarkable speed. Taking down a Northern Pintail is the fulfillment of a dream for many hunters.

The only difference between the duck’s wingspan and that of a mallard is its lean body. Its tail and neck are also longer. The duck may be recognized by two long sprigs that protrude from its tail feathers. Remember that it can even walk on land and is a good swimmer.

The Northern Pintail cannot be easily decoyed, in contrast to other North American bird species. Simply put, because of their wariness, it takes an expert hunter to capture one.

Blue-billed Stifftail

Acquiring the rare Blue-billed Stifftail is a need for every hunting trip to be considered successful. The stiff, upward-pointing tail of this North American duck species is, as its name implies, its most distinguishing characteristic. And if that weren’t enough, it can be quickly identified because to its superb diving abilities.

The duck maintains complete control while swimming about in search of food because to its stiff tail, which acts as radar. The strong tail can also be used to indicate territory or to entice a breeding partner. It most frequently affects male Stifftail ducks.

Alternatively, looking for its bright blue beak and tiny, compact body is a fantastic method to identify this duck species.

American Wigeon

Another popular kind of duck in North America is the wigeon, which is a bird with plenty of panache. It favors quiet lake or pond environments that it can control with its whistle while calling.

Breeding males may be recognized in the wild by their glaring white crowns. They also have a green patch above each of their eyes. Females, on the other hand, have a grey-brown head and are brown in color. Additionally, they resemble geese who gobble up vegetation because of their tiny beak.

Wigeons are well-known vegetarians, in contrast to other duck species that consume meat. Fall searches quickly turn up flocks that congregate in marshes or green fields to consume plants.


Like the pintail, canvasbacks are greatly sought after for more reasons than just the fact that for the majority of us, they offer a brief opportunity to see a large, attractive duck that will be gone tomorrow. They are especially fascinating because of their “King Duck” reputation during the peak of waterfowling.

In upscale East Coast hotels and restaurants during the market-gunning era of the Chesapeake Bay, their tasty flesh commanded the highest prices. Nowadays, eating from this region can be a bit of a crap shoot because to the significantly decreased wild celery beds.

They frequently perform well in freshwater; less so in saltwater. With their characteristic russet-colored head and black sloping beak, black breast, and bright-white belly, they continue to be a treasured trophy for the majority of waterfowlers.

Northern Shoveler

Without adding the Northern Shoveler, no list of duck species found in North America is complete. With its large spoon-shaped beak, it is one of the most distinctive dabbling ducks in the vicinity.

The green head, rusty-colored flanks, and brilliant white chests of male Northern Shovelers make them appear handsome. The orange beak is the single thing that sets females from from other brown species.

To catch a Northern Shoveler, an ardent hunter must enter more shallow parts of wetlands. Look for mating pairings that have a history of sticking together for a while. Furthermore, because to the extensive concealment in such areas, it requires remarkable talents to locate them.


Brown head, dark grey or black beak; exquisite pattern of gray, brown, and black feathers that resemble white-fringed “scales.” Medium and dark brown feathers cover the back. The bills of males are black.

The bill of a female has a dark orange-black color and has brown flecking. resemble female mallards in appearance.
When flying, both sexes have a white patch on their wings, which is significantly smaller on females.

In the US, gadwalls are simple ducks to ignore. Males of this species do not have any patches of blue, green, or white feathers, unlike most other species. In little ponds with a lot of vegetation, look for them.

American Coots are the preferred target of the strange behavior that Gadwalls have of grabbing food from diving ducks as they come to the surface! In the summer, when animal matter can account for up to 50% of their diet, this behavior is more prevalent; in the winter, it lowers to around 5%. Their main food source is aquatic vegetation that is submerged.

It may be a male Gadwall if you hear someone burping and you’re close to water. Their brief, reedy sounds are sometimes called “burps.”

Black Duck

The black duck, another bird with a long history in waterfowl hunting, is a relative of the mallard and is almost the same size, though it is noticeably rarer.

Blacks are frequently spotted, sometimes in large groups, by East Coast waterfowlers from Maine to North Carolina; hunters in the Mississippi Flyway are always on the watch for them.

Due to habitat destruction and interbreeding with mallards, their number has been declining since the 1950s, as evidenced by their one-bird-limit status. These secretive ducks are difficult to call and decoy, much like its relative from the Gulf Coast, the mottled duck.

Common Eider

The Common Eider is a North American duck species that lives along the coast of New England. It should be on every hunter’s list of favorite ducks to hunt because it is one of the biggest ducks in North America. One Common Eider can weigh upwards of 5 pounds, which emphasizes this point.

This bird is large and chubby, and it is very simple to identify because to its distinctive white feathers and black belly. The crest and wingtips are also completely black. And to top it all off, the golden bill of the Eider is long and sloping.

As if that weren’t enough, the lime green patch on the back of its skull completes the color scheme. Additionally, the bottom portion of its breast is pink in hue. Its beautiful qualities alone make it a must.

Blue-winged Teal

A Blue-winged Teal is smaller in size and has a similar rounded head to Mallards. However, it’s crucial to remember that it has a much larger expense. Breeding males may be recognized by their brown coloring and darker spots on their breasts.

They also feature a white crescent mark just behind the beak. Additionally, their black backside has a patch of the same hue. Female Blue-winged Teal, on the other hand, have a distinctive brown coloration with a stronger blue on the region above their wings.

These ducks enjoy calm bodies of water like lakes and large ponds, just as many other duck species in North America. Additionally, search for them in marshes with a combination of grass and wetlands.


Grab your shotgun fast if you hear what sounds like paper ripping while in a duck blind because a flock of bluebills is about to fly in. These resilient ducks, which often appear in the middle of the morning when you are either picking up decoys or strongly considering it, have salvaged many a dull duck hunt in the South.

However, in the upper Midwest, where I have also hunted them, big flocks suddenly and dramatically enter your world. These supersonic fliers blitz your decoys with reckless abandon and demand leads you had never before imagined.

Bluebills shot abroad can be less than delicious, despite the beloved nickname “butterballs” given to them by my Minnesotan friends who like their flesh.

Wood Duck

The Wood Duck, one of the most sought-after fowl species in North America, is a somewhat reserved duck. With its distinctive coloring and petite face, it is perhaps one of the most attractive ducks. It is preferable to seek forested, marshy, and swampy places for it.

The Wood Duck is quick and nimble, making it simple to overlook while hunting, so keep an eye out. It prefers to fly when the sun is just rising or setting and there is little ambient light. Even when the hen makes a high-pitched whining sound, spotting becomes difficult.

Green-winged Teal

Males have green ear patches and chestnut-brown heads. beautiful bodies with gray bars and white stripes running vertically down each side.

The whole body of the females has a mottled brown color with a dark eyeline.
A green patch that is visible in flight and the majority of the time when resting is present on the wing of both sexes.

The tiniest dabbling ducks you may find in the US are called green-winged teals. They only measure 12 to 15 inches (31 to 39 cm) in length and weigh 5 to 18 ounces (140-500 g).

These birds visit other species and move often. It’s likely a Green-winged Teal if you pay special attention to the smallest duck in a mixed group. Even females, who resemble female Mallards in appearance, should be distinguished since they are far smaller!

Despite being the second most hunted duck in the country, Green-winged Teal numbers have grown over time in the United States. Fortunately, because they reproduce in the most northern regions of North America, they haven’t experienced the same habitat loss that other species have.

Male ducks make an unusual sound for a duck, in my opinion, when they whistle quickly, clearly, and repeatedly. At any time of the year, females frequently make a succession of quacks.

Black Scoter

Larger North American duck species known as Black Scoters frequently inhabit the Northern Hemisphere. The Black Scoter may be identified by its protruding beak. Additionally, it has appealing designs and brilliant colors.

In a similar vein, the Black Scoter has dark plumage that is unmarked. In addition to residing in the northern portions of the continent, a hunter can search stony locations that don’t appear to be bird breeding areas.

American Black Duck

American Black Ducks are not well-described by their moniker. They don’t have any black on them, despite the fact that you would assume they would resemble Daffy Duck from the Warner Brothers cartoon series!

These ducks may be found in shallow marshes in the United States, where they frequently graze with Mallards. Make careful to pay great attention to huge flocks for American Black Ducks and female Mallards because they have very similar appearances.

Redheaded Duck

Due to its sparkling reddish, a look around in open ocean regions and coasts shows a unique duck. The male Redheaded Ducks are black/gray in color and brighten up any area where they gather.

This duck is one of the most gregarious and thrives in groups, unlike other bird species that prefer isolated lives. They congregate in their numbers along the Gulf Coast during their winter migration, more so. They prefer building their nests on the Great Plains in the summer, one of the most popular hunting grounds.

Female ducks, on the other hand, are brown from the top of their heads to the tip of their tails, whereas only male ducks have the redhead. Males and females only have black-tipped beaks in common.

Cinnamon Teal

In the United States, big, permanent wetlands are where cinnamon teals breed and are most numerous. They are most frequently observed around the borders of cover-giving plants, such as reeds.

Even while their number is still growing, it has been steadily dwindling for more than 50 years. Due to the conversion of wetlands for agriculture or other forms of development, a large portion of their habitat has been destroyed. Additionally, Cinnamon Teals are vulnerable to pollution and contamination in what is left behind.

Males make a low-pitched rattling sound that resembles someone attempting in vain to start a chain saw, “karr, karr, karr.”

The females are excellent mothers who are fiercely devoted to their young. In an effort to deter predators, she will appear to have a damaged wing if confronted.

Lesser Scaup

The Lesser Scaup is a medium-sized bird that is best referred to as a jet in North America. It is well renowned for its impressive diving prowess and capacity for forming close-knit groups.

Estuaries, large lakes, and reservoirs are the finest places to look for Lesser Scaups by hunters. Additionally, they might congregate in large numbers during the winter migration. The bird is common in the wild and is sought for by many waterfowl hunters.

Female ducks seem more like chocolate, whereas male ducks have distinctive black and white markings. When they need to eat little marine animals or plants, they typically dive below the surface.

The Lesser Scaup prefers to spend the winter in the tropics more than any other duck in the Northern Hemisphere. Other duck species that don’t get as far as the Caribbean or Central America are distinct from this one.

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks spend a lot of time walking, perching on fences, and moving about on land using their lengthy legs. They may build their nests inside of old woodpecker holes in trees.

The majority of these ducks are vegetarians. Like geese, they consume aquatic plants in addition to leftover grains like maize, rice, and wheat.

The term “Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks” is very accurate. Their bellies are obviously black, but the term “whistling” refers to the distinctive noises they produce. Find a soft, high whistle with a long initial note and a series of shorter notes.

For the scientific nerds among you, whistling ducks are not regarded as real dabbling ducks like the earlier species we discussed. Only eight species of Dendrocygna are now known to exist worldwide. They have their own family (Dendrocygnidae) and genus (Dendrocygna).