7 Types of Ducks to Look for This Spring

Many ducks are already beginning their trek for spring migration. Here are 7 types of ducks that you are likely to see during migration season.

Although it might not feel like spring migration should be starting up, many types of ducks are already beginning their trek. As soon as lakes and reservoirs have open water, you can count on many ducks, geese, and other waterbirds to start their migration back to their breeding grounds. These 7 types of ducks are ones that you are likely to see if you head out to your local lake, reservoir, or marsh with a spotting scope this spring!

This flock contains pintail in several different plumages.Rob Ripma
This flock contains pintail in several different plumages.

Northern Pintail

Northern pintail is one of my favorite ducks. The male’s pattern is extremely unique and distinct so you are unlikely to confuse this species with any of the other ducks. This species is more likely to be found in shallow ponds and marshes than on large bodies of water. Look for the very long tail feathers in flight, which will help you pick this species out from a great distance.

The white crown on this species led to the old name "Baldpate" because it looks like a bald man's head.Rob Ripma
The white crown on this species led to the old name “Baldpate” because it looks like a bald man’s head.

American Wigeon

American wigeon are likely to be found alongside our first species, northern pintail, in shallow ponds and marshes. Keep a close eye on any large groups of American wigeon and you just might find a rare Eurasian wigeon in the flock! The white crown on this species led to the old name “Baldpate” because it looks like a bald man’s head.

Rob Ripma
Look at how big that bill is on this female Northern Shoveler!

Northern Shoveler

The name of this duck tells you just about everything you need to know about it! It has an incredible shovel like bill that it uses to filter mud as it looks for food.

This male Blue-winged Teal is just starting to molt into it breeding plumage. You can see the white crescent on the face and the white hip-patch is barely starting to show.
This male Blue-winged Teal is just starting to molt into it breeding plumage. You can see the white crescent on the face and the white hip-patch is barely starting to show.

Blue-winged Teal

Although their bill isn’t as distinctive as the northern shoveler, blue-winged teal use it to filter mud as they feed as well. The male of this species is easily identified by its bold white crescent on it’s head as well as its white hip-patch. Like many female birds, female blue-winged teal aren’t as flashy as the males so that they can blend in when on their nests.

I love how the stark white back contrasts with the rich brown color of the male Canvasback's head.Rob Ripma
I love how the stark white back contrasts with the rich brown color of the male Canvasback’s head.

Canvasback

Unlike our first four species, the canvasback is a duck that prefers deeper water as it dives to catch its meals. Both males and females have a very distinct sloping shape to their head. I love how the stark white back contrasts with the rich brown color of the male Canvasback’s head.

The pattern on the male Bufflehead in flight is beautiful!Rob Ripma
The pattern on the male Bufflehead in flight is beautiful!

Bufflehead

This tiny diving duck is another one of my favorite waterfowl species. With a close view, the iridescent black on the head of the bufflehead is extremely striking!

Like all of the species I've mentioned, the male Hooded Merganser is much flashier than the female.Rob Ripma
Like all of the species I’ve mentioned, the male Hooded Merganser is much flashier than the female.

Hooded Merganser

This beautiful duck might look like it would stand out, but when it hides right along the shore, it can be difficult to spot. This species, and the bufflehead above, both nest in trees, unlike the other featured ducks that are all ground nesters.

Rob Ripma
Rob Ripma is a lifelong Indiana resident, who has traveled and birded extensively throughout the Americas.