Skip to Content

Ducks In Texas – 15 Commonly Seen Species

Duck species found in texas

Ducks are beautiful birds, and more importantly, they are also some of the easiest birds to watch!

We can see ducks all over Canada and the USA, including in the state of Texas. In Texas, thousands of ducks spend the winter in this state’s coastal lagoons, marshes, and lakes!

How many ducks have you seen in Texas? We bet you’ve seen a lot of ducks but how many could you identify?

This list of the most common ducks in Texas will help!

 

Most Common Duck Species in Texas

According to eBird data, our list shows the most common ducks in Texas.

We arranged these ducks from most common to least common, and also included information about their habitats and behavior.

Since there are lots of different ducks in Texas, this list features 15 of them – the most common ones.

 

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Scientific name: Dendrocygna autumnalis
Length: 21 inches
Wingspan: 30 inches

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are big waterfowl with long pink legs and a dark pink beak. If that sounds fancy, it’s true, they are bold and eye-catching birds!

Adults look similar and are chestnut-brown with a black belly and undertail, gray head, and bold white wing stripes. Juveniles have gray beaks and legs.

These ducks are very social birds that flock together in shallow wetlands and rice fields. On account of their tendency to perch in trees, this species and other whistling-ducks used to be known as “tree-ducks”.

However, since they are also very vocal and often make sharp, whistle-like calls, they are known as “whistling-ducks”.

This species likes to eat grains and other plant matter, and sometimes occurs in big groups. They are also active at night and nest in tree cavities as well as on the ground. In the USA, we can find Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks in southern Arizona, southern Texas, Florida, and parts of the southeastern USA.

Key identifications:

  • Big, goose-like duck with a big pink beak.
  • Gray-brown bird with a black belly.
  • Long legs, and dark wings with a bold white wing stripe.

 

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.

Related: What is the state bird of Texas?

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.

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.

 

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.

This species breeds in shallow wetlands in Alaska, western and central Canada, and in parts of the northern and western USA. They migrate to coastal marshes and much of the southern USA for the winter.

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.

 

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.

 

Mottled Duck

Mottled Duck Pair

Scientific name: Anas fluvigula
Length: 22 inches
Wingspan: 30 inches

Mottled Ducks are hefty, dark brown ducks with a much paler, buff neck and head. They also have a dark line through each of their dark eyes, buff and dark brown markings on their body, and orange legs. Both sexes look pretty similar except that males have a brighter yellow beak, and females are sometimes paler.

In brief, they are one of the plainer looking duck species in North America. However, although they might not look as pretty as some other birds, the Mottled Duck is pretty special! This waterfowl species has a very small range and only occurs in Florida, on parts of the Gulf of Mexico, and in a few other areas of the southeastern USA.

These cool birds dabble for plants and small creatures in coastal marshes and other shallow wetlands. We usually see them in pairs but, after breeding, they can flock together and feed in farm fields.

Key identifications:

  • Hefty brown duck with a plan buff throat.
  • Plain olive or orange-yellow beak.
  • Orange legs and wings that are mostly dark above, mostly white below.

 

Green-winged Teal

Green-winged Teal

Scientific name: Anas crecca
Length: 14 inches
Wingspan: 23 inches

Green-winged Teals are small waterfowl with a smallish, dark beak, and a dark green patch at the base of each wing. Males of these cute little ducks are mostly gray and have a chestnut head with a dark green patch, speckled, buff chest, and narrow white bar near their chest.

Females are mostly mottled brown with a dark line through each eye. Both sexes have a buff mark on the edge of their tail, and show a white belly in flight. Green-winged Teal like to forage for plants and small creatures in the shallow water of marshes and other wetland habitats.

They breed in Alaska, Canada, and the northern USA, and winter in a variety of wetland habitats in some parts of southern Canada, and most of the USA.

Although this small duck species can form flocks, we often see them in pairs or only in small groups. They also migrate north later than other duck species.

Key identifications:

  • Very small duck.
  • Buffy mark along the edge of each side of its tail.
  • Small dark beak and dark green patch edged with buff 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 winter in many parts of the USA south to northern South America.

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.

 

American Wigeon

American Wigeon

Scientific name: Mareca americana
Length: 20 inches
Wingspan: 32 inches

American Wigeons are medium-sized ducks with a smallish gray beak. Males are gray with a white crown, some dark green near their eyes, and peach-brown colors on their chest and sides.

They also have a black undertail and show white shoulders in flights. Females look like males but lack white and green on their heads and are a bit duller in general. Both sexes have pointed tails and a white belly especially visible in flight.

American Wigeons like to graze grass and eat grain while walking at the edge of wetlands and in wet fields. They can also pick plant matter and small creatures from the surface of the water and even steal food from other ducks!

This waterfowl species breeds in cold, shallow marshes in Alaska, Canada, and parts of the northern USA. They migrate through much of the USA and winter in coastal waters, and on lakes and other wetlands in southern states.

Key identifications:

  • Rather small pale gray beak.
  • Peach or gray-orange chest and flanks.
  • Male has a white crown and white shoulders, female has grayish head with a dark area around her eyes.

 

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.

 

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail

Photograph © Sam Crowe.

Scientific name: Anas acuta
Length: 21 inches
Wingspan: 34 inches

Northern Pintails are fairly large and slender, gray and creamy white ducks with long necks, and long tails. Breeding males are handsome birds with dark, chocolate-brown on their head and neck, a black undertail, and a long pointed tail feather.

Females and nonbreeding males are gray and tawny birds with a plain, pale tawny head and neck, and a gray beak. In flight, Northern Pintails also show long, pale gray wings, and the males have a dark green patch on the base of each wing.

We see these neat ducks in shallow marshes, and on lakes and other wetlands. They often form small groups that can flock with other waterfowl species.

They forage for grains and small aquatic creatures by dabbling in very shallow water and picking food from the wet ground while walking at the edge of the water, and in wet fields.

We see these pretty ducks in shallow wetland habitats in most of North America.

Key identifications:

  • Fairly large duck with a long, slender neck.
  • Pointed tail.
  • Dark brown or tawny head and a gray beak.

 

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 and winter on lakes, in coastal waters, and other wetlands in the western and southern USA.

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.

 

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.

 

Redhead

Redhead

Scientific name: Aythya americana
Length: 19 inches
Wingspan: 29 inches

Redheads are medium-sized ducks that dive in lakes, reservoirs, and bays to catch mollusks and other aquatic animals. Males are eye-catching birds with a bright chestnut head, yellow eyes, pale blue-gray beak with a black tip, black chest and undertail, and gray body.

Females are gray-brown birds that look very different from their male counterparts. Hen Redheads are gray-brown with a paler belly, dark gray beak with a black tip, and plain buffy face.

In flight, both sexes show gray upperwings and much white on their underwings.

Redheads breed in shallow marshes and lakes in Alaska, and central and western North America. In winter, we see these handsome birds on bigger bodies of water in much of the southern USA as well as many coastal waters and parts of the Great Lakes.

After breeding, they can occur in large flocks, especially in the coastal lagoons of South Texas. In that area, wintering Redheads can number in the thousands!

Key identifications:

  • Blue-gray beak with a black tip.
  • Male has dark gray body, black chest, and bright red-brown head.
  • Female mostly tawny-brown with a buff throat.

 

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.

Related: Fastest birds in the world

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.

Buffleheads dive to forage for mollusks and other small creatures. They also occur in flocks, sometimes with goldeneyes and other diving birds, especially in winter.

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.

 

Canvasback

Canvasback

Scientific name: Aythya valisineria
Length: 21 inches
Wingspan: 29 inches

Canvasbacks are distinctive, medium-sized ducks with a long, gently sloping, black beak. No other duck in North America has a beak like the Canvasback, maybe nowhere else either!

Males have a beautiful, dark chestnut head, dark eyes, black chest, and a pale gray and white body. They also have a black rump, tail, and undertail.

Female Canvasbacks have the same shape as male birds but look quite different. They are pale gray with a sandy brown chest, neck, and head. In flight, both sexes show a lot of white on their underwings.

This duck species dives underwater to forage for mollusks and other aquatic creatures.

Canvasbacks breed in shallow marshes in Alaska, western Canada, and parts of the western USA. Flocks migrate through most parts of the USA. In winter, we can see large flocks of these pretty ducks in coastal bays and on lakes and reservoirs in the southern and eastern USA.

Key identifications:

  • Big, long, blackish, sloped beak.
  • Male has black chest, pale gray body, and dark chestnut head.
  • Female has brownish-gray body, and pale brown head and chest.

 

Ducks In Texas: FAQ’s

What is the most common duck species in Texas?

The most common duck species in Texas is the Black-bellied Whistling-Duck. According to eBird, this species is seen more often than any other duck in the state.

How many duck species does Texas have?

Texas has a lot of duck species. The official bird list for Texas has 38 duck species although several are rare vagrants.

How many duck species are native to Texas?

38 duck species are native to Texas but 9 are very rare or vagrants.

 

See more topics: Hawks in Texas | Owls in Texas | Hummingbirds in Texas

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