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Wisconsin Ducks – 26 Common Species & Where To See Them

Ducks in Wisconsin

Ducks are such common and handsome birds. Luckily, most are also easy to watch!

There are also a bunch of species to look at, especially in colder, northern regions. One such place is Wisconsin. The state’s many lakes and rivers can be especially good for ducks!

What are the ducks of Wisconsin? How many ducks have you seen in that beautiful state and how many could you identify?
This list of the most common ducks in Wisconsin will help!


Most Common Ducks in Wisconsin

According to recent eBird data, we created a list showing the most common ducks in Wisconsin.

They are arranged from most common to least common, and, to help find them, we included information about their habitat and behavior. We also included key field marks to help identify these beautiful aquatic birds!



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 addition to eating bird food and vegetables, Mallards dabble in shallow water for plant matter and small creatures. They are year-round inhabitants, some birds even migrate to Wisconsin to breed.

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.





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.

Related: How common are Northern Flicers in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, Buffleheads are most common during migration. While they have stable populations during winter, it is rare to see them during summertime, with most of them breeding in northern areas.

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.


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 most common 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 mostly in the spring and summer, mostly until October.

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.


Common Goldeneye

Common Goldeneye pair

Scientific name: Bucephala clangula
Length: 18.5 inches
Wingspan: 26 inches

Common Goldeneyes are small ducks with a stout, triangular beak. Males are mostly white with some black markings and have green iridescence on their black heads. They also have a round white patch on their face.

Female Common Goldeneyes have gray bodies with a white belly, a pale collar, and a dark, gray-brown head. They also usually have a pale tip on their beaks.

Both sexes of this pretty little duck have pale eyes, and, in flight, show big white patches on the base of their wings.

Common Goldeneyes nest in tree cavities near lakes and other wetlands in forest from Alaska and Canada to parts of the northern USA.

After breeding, they form flocks that migrate to coastal areas, lakes, and other bodies of water in most of the USA.

These cute ducks dive underwater to forage for small mollusks and other aquatic creatures.

Key identifications:

  • Small duck with a fairly large, stout blackish beak, and pale eyes.
  • Male is black and white with a round white mark on his green-black face.
  • Female has mostly gray body with a dark brown head.


Common Merganser

Common Merganser

Scientific name: Mergus merganser
Length: 25 inches
Wingspan: 34 inches

Common Mergansers are big and slender ducks with pointed red beaks. Based on their size, the English name of “Goosander” for this bird seems fitting!

Breeding males are white with a dark green head and some black on their back and wings.

Female and nonbreeding male Common Mergansers are gray with a brown head, small white throat, and white on their belly. When flying, this species shows a lot of white on the base of their wings.

They have fast, direct flight and, after the breeding season, usually occur in small flocks.

These highly aquatic ducks catch fish and crustaceans after pursuing them underwater. They nest on cold lakes and rivers and can be found in Wisconsin year-round.

Key identifications:

  • Red, pointed beak.
  • Distinct brown head with a white throat.
  • Males have all white underparts.


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 and winter in wooded wetlands.

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.


Red-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Mergansers

Scientific name: Mergus serrator
Length: 23 inches
Wingspan: 30 inches

Red-breasted Mergansers are big, slender ducks with long, thin beaks. Unlike some ducks we know, you won’t find them paddling around ponds and looking for handouts.

This duck is built for speed! Red-breasted Mergansers can fly at 80 miles per hour! They aren’t that fast when swimming underwater but are still quick enough to catch young trout and other fish.

Male Red-breasted Mergansers have a dark green head, broad white collar, and a dark brown chest border with black and white markings. They also have a black and white back, gray sides, and a white belly.

Females are mostly gray with a tawny head and a white belly. Both sexes have reddish beaks, a double crest, and white on the base of their pointed wings.

This duck species breeds on forested lakes in northern parts of North America. In winter, big flocks dive for fish on The Great Lakes, and in coastal waters.

Related: Ducks in Michigan

Key identifications:

  • Big, slender duck with a narrow reddish beak.
  • Tawny or dark green head with a double crest.
  • Much white on the base of long wings.


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 necks 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 aquatic plants, aquatic 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 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, but spend their winters in Florida and southern parts of the United States. Northern Shovelers usually migrate through Wisconsin, with some birds staying longer.

Key identifications:

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


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, a black chest, a black rear end, a pale gray back, and a 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 are divers – they dive to forage in lakes, reservoirs, and coastal bays for mollusks, crustaceans, and other aquatic creatures. During migration and winter, they often occur in large rafts that can number in the hundreds!

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.



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. Male Gadwalls are gray ducks with a paler grayish head, some brown feathers on their wings, and a black rump, tail, and undertail.

Females 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, a 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. They migrate through much of the USA and winter in coastal areas from Alaska to California, and in many western and southern states.

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.




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.


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.


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.


American Black Duck

American Black Duck

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

American Black Ducks are big and hefty ducks with dark brown bodies. In certain lighting conditions, true to their name, they can look blackish.

They also have a pale, brown-grayish neck and head with a small dark cap and a dark line through their eyes. Males are more uniformly dark than females while hen American Black Ducks show some buff edging on their feathers.

In flight, their white underwings contrast with their dark upperwings. You might also notice the dark blue patch on the base of their upperwing.

This species usually occurs in pairs or small groups that dabble for plant matter and small creatures in shallow wetlands. They don’t form flocks as big as many other duck species.

American Black Ducks breed in shallow marshes and other wetlands in eastern Canada and the northeastern USA. For the winter, they migrate to lakes and other wetlands in the eastern USA.

Key identifications:

  • Dark body with a pale head.
  • Dingy greenish yellow beak.
  • Mostly dark upperwings and white underwings.


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.




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 and small ponds 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.


Greater Scaup

Greater Scaup

Scientific name: Aythya marila
Length: 18 inches
Wingspan: 28 inches

Greater Scaups are medium-sized ducks with pretty hefty, bluish beaks, and a rounded head with a pronounced forehead. Males have white bodies with pale gray backs, a blackish head with green iridescence, black chest, and black rump, tail, and undertail.

Female Greater Scaups are gray-brown birds that are darker brown on their heads, chest, and rear end. They also have a white patch on the front of their face. Both sexes also have pale eyes, and, in flight, show white bellies, and a broad white stripe on most of their wings.

Greater Scaups dive underwater to forage for mollusks and some other creatures.

Key identifications:

  • Large, blue-gray beak with black tip.
  • Rounded head that has a prominent projecting forehead.
  • In flight, white stripe that nearly reaches the tip of the wing.


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, but usually only migrate through Wisconsin.

Key identifications:

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


White-winged Scoter

White-winged Scoter

Scientific name: Melanitta deglandi
Length: 21 inches
Wingspan: 34 inches

White-winged Scoters are large, sooty black ducks with a big white patch on their wings. This white wing patch is the easiest way to identify them and is visible on flying birds pretty far away!

Males have a small white patch below their eyes, and a fairly large, orange-red beak. Female White-winged Scoters are also sooty black but have a dark beak, and two pale patches on their head. Juveniles resemble females but have whiter patches on their head and a pale belly.

These hefty ducks dive in large bodies of water and coastal waters to forage for mollusks and other small sea creatures. In summer, pairs breed on lakes in Alaska and central and western Canada.

In winter, big flocks migrate to bays and other inshore waters on both coasts. During migration, lines of White-winged Scoters flying low over the water are a common sight in many parts of the Great Lakes and coastal waters.

Key identifications:

  • Hefty black duck with white wing patches.
  • Small white spot below each eye.
  • Small, pale, round mark in front of their eyes (the female).


Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Ducks – male and female

Scientific name: Histrionicus histrionicus
Length: 16.5 inches
Wingspan: 26 inches

Harlequin Ducks are small, unique ducks with small grayish beaks, and longish, pointed tails. Male Harlequins have ornamental plumage that resembles no other bird!

They are dark slaty gray with round and crescent-shaped white marks on their head and sides of their neck and chest. They also have some white marks where their wings meet their body, a bit of red-brown on their head, and red-brown sides.

Female Harlequins aren’t nearly as decorated. These dark brown ducks have a white belly, pale patch in front of their eyes, and a small round white spot on the side of their head.

These cute little ducks show all dark wings in flight, and forage for small aquatic creatures in cold, fast moving water. In summer, Harlequin Ducks breed along rivers in Alaska and western Canada south to Idaho, and in eastern Canada.

In winter, small flocks occur in similar fast water and coastal areas with rough surf conditions.

Key identifications:

  • Dark gray with odd white patches.
  • Dark brown with a round white spot on the side of the head (females).
  • All dark wings in flight.


Long-tailed Duck

Male Long-tailed Duck

Scientific name: Clangula hyemalis
Length: 16.5 inches
Wingspan: 28 inches

Long-tailed Ducks are small sea ducks at home on cold, Arctic tundra lakes. Breeding males have smart-looking, black plumage with a pale gray face patch, white belly and sides, and some brown feathers on their back.

They also have long, black central tail feathers! However, since they live so far north, not a whole lot of people get to see them in their breeding plumage. Most male Long-tailed Ducks that birders see have much more white on their head, neck, and chest, and silvery feathers on their backs.

Females don’t look as exotic and lack the male’s long tail feathers but are still nice to see! They are gray-brown with white on their head, belly, and undertail.

Both sexes have fairly broad black wings and forage for small aquatic animals by diving underwater. These small ducks breed on ponds and other wetlands but flocks winter in coastal waters on both coasts and some large lakes.

Key identifications:

  • White belly, dark chest, and broad, black wings.
  • Small beak, and gray and white plumage with some black markings.
  • Pointed tail (very long in male).


Surf Scoter

Surf Scoter

Scientific name: Melanitta perspicillata
Length: 20 inches
Wingspan: 30 inches

Surf Scoters are hefty, jet black ducks with a big swollen beak, especially the males. Their large beaks are white, orange, and red, and have a big round black spot!

The male’s other main field marks are a small white patch on the front part of the crown, and a big white patch on the back of their neck.

Both sexes of the Surf Scoter also have staring white eyes! However, female Surf Scoters aren’t as fancy. They are dark gray-brown, have a dark cap, and some pale marks on their head.

Young birds have more pronounced white patches on their head, and an extensive whitish belly.

Surf Scoters fly fast, low over the water, and have all-dark wings. They dive for mollusks and other small creatures in cold, northern lakes and coastal waters.

In summer, this species lives in Alaska and parts of northern Canada, and flocks winter on large lakes and along both coasts.

Key identifications:

  • A beak with a swollen appearance.
  • Dark wings in flight.
  • White line at the base of the bill.


Black Scoter

Black Scoter

Scientific name: Melanitta americana
Length: 19 inches
Wingspan: 28 inches

Black Scoters are large, all black ducks with fairly large beaks. Males are entirely plush black but also have a big yellow knob on their bill. In flight, they also show slightly paler flight feathers that contrast with the rest of their darker wings.

Female Black Scoters don’t have any yellow on their beaks and look much duller. These birds are dark gray-brown with a blackish cap, and a pale face.

Black Scoters dive for mollusks and other small aquatic creatures in big lakes and coastal waters. In summer, pairs breed on fairly shallow lakes in Alaska and parts of northern Canada. In fall, flocks migrate to inshore waters on both coasts.

A number of Black Scoters migrate through the Great Lakes and can also make stops on large reservoirs. Some also winter on those large interior lakes but most Black Scoter flocks migrate to the coast.

Key identifications:

  • Heavy black duck with yellow on its beak (males).
  • Dark duck with a dark cap and a pale face (females).
  • All dark wings in flight.


Mandarin Duck

Mandarin Duck

Scientific name: Aix galericulata
Length: 18.1 inches
Wingspan: 28 inches

Mandarin Ducks are one of the fanciest little ducks in the world. With the incredibly ornamental plumage, it’s easy to see why these exotic birds are often kept in zoos and private collections!

Males have a rounded head with dark green and black highlights, a white and buff face, small pink-red beak, and a red-brown “beard”. They also have a dark purple chest, mottled gray-buff sides, and a white belly.

If that’s not fancy enough, male Mandarins also have a patch of pumpkin-brown, upright feathers on each side of their lower back! Females look very different.

They are gray-brown ducks with a rounded head, pale throat, white spectacles, and pale markings on their chest and sides.

This species dabbles for bits of food on ponds and lakes.

Mandarin Ducks are native to eastern Asia but a good number of birds that have escaped from captivity occur in various parts of the USA.

Key identifications:

  • Ornamental duck with a rounded head and white and buff face.
  • Narrow white spectacles (female).
  • Straight edge to the base of the bill.


Frequently Asked Questions

How many duck species are found in Wisconsin?

In total, 36 duck species have been found in Wisconsin; several of these are rare vagrants in the state.

What is the most common duck in Wisconsin?

The most common duck in Wisconsin is the Mallard. According to eBird data, this species is seen more often than any other duck in the state.

What ducks migrate through Wisconsin?

Many ducks migrate through Wisconsin. These include American Wigeons, Northern Pintails, Greater and Lesser Scaups, and various other species.

Do ducks stay in Wisconsin in winter?

Yes, several ducks stay in Wisconsin in winter.

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.

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