Skip to Content

10 Ohio Ducks – Most Common Species [Based on eBird Data]

Ohio Ducks – 10 largest populations

Ducks have beautiful and exotic plumage. They are also easy and fun to watch!

In North America, we have a lot of duck species. As with most states and provinces, Ohio is a great place to watch them! Ohio’s Lake Erie shore, marshes, lakes, and other wetlands are excellent habitat for thousands of ducks!

Have you seen ducks in Ohio? We bet you’ve seen a lot of those beautiful birds but how many were you able to identify?

This list of the most common duck species in Ohio will help!

 

Most Common Duck Species in Ohio

Based on eBird data, we made a list showing the most common ducks in Ohio.

Related: What is the state bird of Ohio (& other state symbols)?

We arranged the birds from most common to least common and also included information about their behavior and habitats. To help you identify them, we also included key field marks!

 

Mallard

Mallard pair

Scientific name: Anas platyrhynchos
Length: 23 inches
Wingspan: 35 inches

Mallards are the most familiar duck species. For lots of folks, this is “the duck”. They have been domesticated for centuries and lots of them are fed at urban ponds and lakes.

However, make no doubt about it, Mallards are wild birds that also live in lots of wild and remote areas in most of North America. The males have a dark green head, narrow white collar, yellowish beak, and dark brown chest.

Female Mallards, though, can be trickier to identify. They are brown with some paler brown and dark markings, and have a gray-brown neck and head with a dark cap, and a dark line through their eyes.

In flight, we can also recognize female Mallards by their pale tail, and two white wing bards bordering a green-blue wing patch.

In addition to eating bird food and vegetables, Mallards dabble in shallow water for plant matter and small creatures.

Key identifications:

  • Big duck with a glossy green head and yellowish beak.
  • The female has a dark center mark on her orange beak.
  • Short, pale, or white tail.

 

Wood Duck

wood-duck - Bill Horn

Scientific name: Aix sponsa
Length: 18.5 inches
Wingspan: 30 inches

Wood Ducks are seriously ornamental birds. The males can seem so exotic, it might be hard to believe they are a wild, native species! However, Wood Ducks are indeed native and fairly common in many parts of southern Canada and the USA.

These cute, slender, long-tailed ducks prefer wooded swamps and other wetlands in forested habitats. The males have a rounded head with a dark green crest, black and white face, short red beak, and jade green back. They also have bright buff flanks and a chestnut chest and undertail.

Female Wood Ducks grayish-brown birds that aren’t nearly as fancy but can still be recognized by their blocky head, white spectacles, slender shape, and mostly dark wings.

Wood Ducks usually occur in pairs but can also form small flocks that forage for acorns, plant matter, and small creatures in and near water. We often hear these ducks give their odd, squealing whistle vocalization before we see them.

Key identifications:

  • Slender duck with a longish tail and a blocky head.
  • Ornate plumage a short, reddish beak.
  • Dark wings with a narrow white line on the base of the trailing edge.

 

Bufflehead

Bufflehead

Scientific name: Bucephala albeola
Length: 13.5 inches
Wingspan: 21 inches

Buffleheads are small, cute ducks with rounded heads and stout little beaks. Males are bold, black and white birds with a big white patch on their head. In good light, their head also has green and purple iridescence.

Female Buffleheads are more gray-brown with a white belly, and have a smaller white head patch.

During their fast flight, Buffleheads show a white patch in their wings although the female’s white patch is smaller. These ducks breed on northern, forested lakes in Alaska, Canada, and parts of the northwestern USA.

Like some other small ducks, they need tree cavities for nesting and often use holes made by Northern Flickers.

For the winter, they migrate to coastal waters and lakes, big rivers, and reservoirs in parts of southern Canada and most of the USA. During the winter, they usually occur in flocks, sometimes with other duck species.

Key identifications:

  • Small chunky duck with stout gray beak.
  • Rounded head with a bold white patch.
  • Mostly black and white or grayish with a white belly and small white wing patch.

 

Hooded Merganser

hooded merganser

Scientific name: Lophodytes cucullatus
Length: 18 inches
Wingspan: 24 inches

The Hooded Merganser is one of the prettiest little ducks in North America. Breeding males are handsome ducks with a rounded black and white head, and black neck and back. Their jet black upperparts combine nicely with two black marks on a white chest, and rich, pumpkin-colored flanks.

Females aren’t as colorful but are still pretty in their own way. These brown-gray birds have a slender, yellowish beak, and a deep, caramel-colored, rounded crest.

Both sexes also have a longish, somewhat pointed tail, and small white markings on the base of their slender dark wings.

Hooded Mergansers dive for crayfish, small fish, and other small creatures in wooded swamps and marshes. We don’t see them flock together as much as other ducks do, and they usually occur as pairs.

They mostly breed in forests of southern and western Canada, and the northeastern USA, and winter in wooded wetlands along the Pacific coast and in the eastern USA.

Key identifications:

  • Small duck with a small, slender beak.
  • Blocky or rounded head.
  • White belly and a bit of white on the base of narrow wings.

 

Gadwall

Gadwall pair

Scientific name: Mareca strepera
Length: 20 inches
Wingspan: 33 inches

Gadwalls are medium-sized ducks with a small white patch on the base of each wing. Males are gray ducks with a paler grayish head, some brown feathers on their wings, and a black rump, tail, and undertail.

Female Gadwalls look a lot like female Mallards and have gray-brown plumage with buff markings, and a paler grayish head. Like hen Mallards, they also have an orange and black beak but it is mostly gray on the upper part of the bill.

In flight, both sexes show white bellies, the small white mark on their wing, and much white on their underwings.

Gadwalls forage for seeds and other plant matter in and near shallow water.

These ducks breed in shallow wetlands in central and western Canada, and in various parts of the northern and western USA, but Ohio serves as their wintering ground.

Key identifications:

  • Male is mostly gray with black rear end.
  • Female has grayish head and gray and orange beak.
  • Small white patch on base of wing.

 

Ring-necked Duck

Male Ring-necked Duck

Scientific name: Aythya collaris
Length: 17 inches
Wingspan: 25 inches

Ring-necked Ducks are one of those birds that don’t have the best of names. While males do have a brown ring on their necks, it blends in with their black neck and can be really hard to see.

Ring-necked Ducks should really be called, “Ring-billed Ducks”! The males are best recognized by the white ring near the black tip of their dark gray beak, and their combination of a black back, head, neck, and chest. They also have gray sides and a white mark near their black chest.

Female Ring-necked Ducks are plain, brownish birds with pale bellies and narrow white spectacles on a grayish face. They also show a bit of white on their face, near the base of their bill.

Ring-necked Ducks dabble and make shallow dives for a variety of food items. They like to eat plant matter, insects, and other small aquatic creatures. We find them in a variety of shallow wetlands in much of North America.

Key identifications:

  • Male has black back, head, and chest.
  • Gray sides with white near the black chest.
  • Female has narrow white spectacles on gray face.

 

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal

Scientific name: Spatula discors
Length: 15.5 inches
Wingspan: 23 inches

Blue-winged Teals are small ducks with brownish plumage and fairly big, dark beaks. In a lot of places, these little ducks are the commonest waterfowl species. They are also highly migratory and thousands can spend the winter as far south as Panama and northern Colombia!

Male Blue-winged Teals have dark gray heads and a bold white, crescent-shaped patch on their face. They also have a small white patch near their dark tail and a black undertail. Females are duller brown with buff and dark mottling to help hide them during the nesting season.

In flight, just like their name says, both sexes reveal big blue patches on their wings. Blue-winged Teals usually occur in flocks, and in some places, they can number in the thousands!

They like to dabble for plants and small creatures in rice fields, marshes, and other shallow water wetlands. We can see them in most of Canada and the USA and Ohio is no exception. They breed in and migrate through Ohio.

Key identifications:

  • Small duck with a dark beak and white crescent mark on its face.
  • Female has a dark line through her dark eyes.
  • Blue or blue-gray shoulders on its wings.

 

Lesser Scaup

Lesser Scaup

Scientific name: Aythya affinis
Length: 16.5 inches
Wingspan: 25 inches

Lesser Scaups are smallish or medium-sized diving ducks with a blue-gray beak. Males have a black head with dark green highlights, black chest, and black rear end, pale gray back, and white sides and belly.

Female Lesser Scaups are dark brown with a pale belly, and a white mark on their face. Both sexes have the back part of the head more pointed than the front part. That field mark might not sound like much but it’s one of the best ways to tell them from the extremely similar Greater Scaup!

Lesser Scaups dive to forage in lakes, reservoirs, and coastal bays for mollusks, crustaceans, and other aquatic creatures. In migration and winter, they often occur in flocks that can number in the hundreds!

These smart looking ducks breed on remote lakes and marshes in Alaska, Canada, and in mountains of the western USA. They are common winterers in Ohio.

Key identifications:

  • Bluish beak.
  • Slightly peaked on the back part of its head.
  • Male has black chest, gray body, and dark head, female has a white mark on the front of her face.

 

Ruddy Duck

Stiff-Tailed Ducks

Scientific name: Oxyura jamaicensis
Length: 15 inches
Wingspan: 18.5 inches

Ruddy Ducks are small diving ducks with a unique, big-headed look, and a stiff tail that they often hold upright. Breeding males are a beautiful chestnut bird with a black cap, and a white throat and cheeks. They also have a big and pretty, blue beak that contrasts with the other colors on their head.

Female Ruddy Ducks are grayish birds with darker, more uniform upperparts, and a thick black line on their pale face. They have a duller, darker, more grayish beak than the male. In flight, Ruddy Ducks have mostly dark, rather short and narrow wings.

Ruddy Ducks dive underwater to forage for small aquatic creatures.

This small duck species breeds in shallow marshes and lakes in many parts of central and western North America. They migrate to eastern Canada and the USA, but in some cases, you can see them breeding in Ohio too. Otherwise, Ruddy Ducks are more common during winter, when they spend their time on lakes and other wetlands.

Key identifications:

  • Small duck with big bluish beak and a dark cap.
  • White cheeks or a dark line on pale cheeks.
  • Longish, stiff tail often held upright.

 

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

Scientific name: Spatula clypeata
Length: 19 inches
Wingspan: 30 inches

Northern Shovelers are a distinctive duck species with a big, prominent beak. Males have striking plumage with a dark green head, and white and chestnut underparts. They are also white and gray on their back, have orange legs, and show blue shoulders in flight.

Female Northern Shovelers are tawny-brown ducks with lots of buff markings, and an orange and gray beak. Both sexes also have a pale tail.

These pretty ducks like to float in marshes and other shallow wetland habitats. They often form flocks and we can see them foraging with Blue-winged Teals and other dabbling ducks. Like many other duck species, Northern Shovelers feed on a combination of plant matter and small aquatic creatures.

Northern Shovelers usually migrate to their breeding grounds to central Canada, reaching some northern parts. These ducks are common during the non-breeding season and are at their highest numbers during migration.

Key identifications:

  • Over-sized, flat beak.
  • Male has a white breast, red-brown sides and belly, and dark green head.
  • Female has a pale tail and orange and gray beak.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most common duck in Ohio?

The most common duck in Ohio is the Mallard. According to eBird data, birders in Ohio see this familiar duck more than any other duck species in the state.

Are there teal ducks in Ohio?

Yes, there are teal ducks in Ohio. Three species occur; the Blue-winged Teal, the Green-winged Teal, and the pretty Cinnamon Teal.

Do ducks migrate in Ohio?

Yes, thousands of ducks migrate in Ohio. Several species move through Ohio and also winter in some parts of the state.

Are black ducks rare in Ohio?

No, American Black Ducks are not rare in Ohio. However, they are uncommon and not as easy to see as many other duck species.

Are Mallard ducks in Ohio?

Yes, Mallard ducks are in Ohio. Mallards are the most common duck species in the state.

What is the black and white diving duck in Ohio?

The Black and white diving duck in Ohio could be the Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, or Common Goldeneye.

About the Author

Patrick O'Donnell

Patrick O'Donnell has been focused on all things avian since the age of 7. Since then, he has helped with ornithological field work in the USA and Peru, and has guided many birding tours, especially in Costa Rica. He develops birding apps for BirdingFieldGuides and loves to write about birds, especially in his adopted country of Costa Rica.

Let others know your thoughts or ask an expert

Would you like to get new articles of birds (Once a month?)

No SPAM! We might only send you fresh updates once a month

Thank you for subscribing!

No thanks! I prefer to follow BirdZilla on Facebook