17 Popular Duck Breeds of The Washington State

17 Popular Duck Breeds of The Washington State

Washington Duck

Washington State, a region renowned for its diverse wildlife, is home to a variety of duck breeds.

Here are the popular duck breeds of the Washington State:

  1. Mallard Duck,
  2. Green-winged Teal Duck,
  3. Northern Pintail Unique Duck,
  4. American Wigeon Duck,
  5. Scaup Duck,
  6. Ring-necked Duck,
  7. Canvasback Duck,
  8. Redhead Duck,
  9. Gadwall Duck,
  10. Bufflehead Duck,
  11. Wood Duck,
  12. Northern Shoveler Duck,
  13. Ruddy Duck,
  14. Scoter Duck,
  15. Goldeneye Duck,
  16. Long-Tailed Duck, and
  17. Harlequin Duck.

Mallard Duck

The Mallard Duck, also known as Anas platyrhynchos, is a common sight in the Washington State. It’s a large dabbling duck known for its adaptability to various habitats. You’ll spot them not just in freshwater bodies, but also in saltwater and brackish water environments. Don’t be surprised if you see them grazing on land too.

The male Mallard Duck, or drake, can be easily recognized by its gleaming green head, gray flanks, and black tail-curl. It has an area of white-bordered black or iridescent purple or blue feathers, known as a speculum. Females, on the other hand, wear a mottled brown plumage.

When it comes to diet, the Mallard Duck isn’t fussy. They’re omnivorous and their meals range from plant material to small fish. Insects, crustaceans, mollusks, tadpoles, and frogs are also on the menu.

The Mallard Duck is the ancestor of most strains of domesticated ducks.

Green-winged Teal Duck

The Green-winged Teal Duck, scientifically known as Anas carolinensis, holds the title as the smallest dabbling duck in North America. Recognizable by its compact size and short blocky body, this species is easy to spot if you’re familiar with its distinct features.

Male Green-winged Teals flaunt a chestnut head, a green eye patch, and grey flanks and back. Females, on the other hand, bear a light brown plumage that’s akin to a female Mallard. These ducks exhibit a rich diversity in their physical traits, further enriching Washington State’s biodiversity.

Unlike the Mallard Duck which can adapt to various habitats, the Green-winged Teal is known to inhabit sheltered wetlands. Places like taiga bogs, inland lakes, marshes, ponds, pools, and shallow streams with dense emergent and aquatic vegetation are their preferred habitats.

The Green-winged Teal Duck’s diet is as diverse as its habitat. They’re opportunistic feeders, meaning they eat what’s most abundant at the time. Their diet can range from insects to aquatic vegetation and seeds of grasses and sedge.

This species doesn’t just stick to North America. They’re widespread, breeding in the northern areas of the continent and migrating to southern Alaska, British Columbia, and Central America during winter.

What sets the Green-winged Teal Duck apart is its flight speed. This duck is known for its fast flight, reaching speeds of up to 60 mph. This fun fact adds to the many reasons why the Green-winged Teal Duck is a fascinating addition to the rich duck biodiversity in Washington State.

Northern Pintail Duck

The Northern Pintail Duck is known for its elegance. It’s easily recognized by its slender profile and a distinctive long, pointed tail.

You’re probably wondering, “What makes the Northern Pintail Duck stand out from the rest?” Well, the answer lies in its distinctive appearance. Male Northern Pintails boast a chocolate-brown head, a white breast, and a white stripe extending up the neck’s side. Adding to their charm are the elongated grey feathers with black central stripes draped across the back from the shoulder area. On the other hand, female Northern Pintails sport a mottled brown plumage, creating a stark contrast with their male counterparts.

But the Northern Pintail Duck’s uniqueness doesn’t stop at appearance. This species is highly social when not breeding, forming large mixed flocks with other duck breeds. An interesting fact about the Northern Pintail is their opportunistic feeding habits. Their diet varies with the seasons, including plant material, insects, and even small aquatic creatures like mollusks and crustaceans. Occasionally, they’ll also snack on tadpoles and small fish.

What’s more, the Northern Pintail Duck showcases great adaptability to different habitats. These ducks nest in open wetlands, often some distance from water. They’re also known for their early breeding habits, starting as soon as the ice begins to thaw.

American Wigeon Duck

The American Wigeon is scientifically known as Mareca americana. This duck is compact in size, but what it lacks in stature, it makes up for in unique features and habits.

Male American Wigeons stand out in breeding season with their green eye patches, white crowns, and brownish-gray heads. Such traits earn them a catchy nickname – “baldpate”. Female American Wigeons, however, sport warm browns with a gray-brown head. Both genders share a distinct bluish black-tipped bill, another key identifying attribute.

Unlike their dabbling duck peers, American Wigeons often graze on land or in open waters. If you hear a unique nasal whistle, you’ll know they’re around. Their diet is highly plant-centric, more so than any other dabbling duck. A short, gooselike bill helps them in plucking vegetation from fields and lawns with ease. Besides plant matter, they also feast on aquatic plants, insects, snails, young grass shoots, seeds, and waste grains.

The American Wigeon Duck isn’t just local to Washington State. You’ll find them all over North America, from Alaska, across the tundras of Canada, to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Their adaptability to various habitats underlines their resilience and flexible nature, a testament to their survival skills.

Scaup Duck

The Scaup Duck is split into two distinct species – the Greater Scaup and the Lesser Scaup. Both are medium-sized diving ducks, recognized easily by their distinctive blue bills.

Let’s start with the Greater Scaup, also known as the “bluebill” in North America. It’s larger than the Lesser Scaup and sports a rounded head. The males are quite a sight with their glossy black heads tinted green, black breasts, and a white underside. On the other hand, female Greater Scaups are brown with white oval patches around their bills.

The Lesser Scaup is also referred to as the little bluebill or broadbill. This species has a small peak at the back of its head.

One of the most remarkable aspects of these ducks is their diving abilities. They can reach food sources that other diving ducks can’t, feeding on a mix of seeds, leaves, stems, roots, sedges, pondweeds, muskgrass, wild celery, and small aquatic animals.

The Greater Scaup Duck breeds within the Arctic Circle in both the Old World and North America. In contrast, the Lesser Scaup Duck – a North American species – migrates south as far as Central America in winter.

Ring-necked Duck

The Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris) is a compact diving duck distinctive head shape. You’ll notice a sloping forehead and a peaked rear crown, features that set this duck breed apart from others.

Males have deep-black, iridescent head, breast, and rump contrast with light flanks and a black back. Then, there’s a white spur at the shoulder, a gray bill outlined with white, and a white ring near the black tip.

Females, on the other hand, are grayish-brown. They sport a thin, white eye-ring that trails back to their ear and a peaked head shape.

The Ring-necked Duck’s habitat is quite specific. They prefer shallow wetlands fringed with emergent, submerged, or floating vegetation. It’s mainly in North America, from Canada to Mexico, where you’ll find these ducks. Their flight is swift and erratic, often seen in small compact groups.

The bulk of Ring-necked Duck’s diet consists of aquatic plants, insects, and mollusks. It’s this varied diet that gives them the energy for their impressive diving feats.

Canvasback Duck

The Canvasback Duck is native to North America. This large diving duck stands apart with its unique features. It’s got a long sloping forehead, which gives it a rather distinguished look. You’d be able to spot a male Canvasback Duck by its rusty head and neck, and a gleaming whitish body bookended in black. The female, though pale brown overall, also sports the signature head shape.

These ducks are well known for their diving abilities. They’ve been seen reaching depths of seven feet while foraging, and can go as deep as 30 feet. Their diet? They feed on plant tubers at the bottom of lakes and wetlands, showing a fondness for wild celery.

You’d find them breeding in small lakes, deep-water marshes, bays, and ponds. In winter, they migrate to freshwater lakes and coastal waters, often gathering by the thousands.

The Canvasback Duck is swift and powerful in flight. They can reach speeds of up to 56 miles per hour. Quiet by nature, males communicate with a soft cooing sound to the females, who respond with a soft “krrr krrr” sound.

Redhead Duck

The Redhead Duck (Aythya americana) is easy to spot with its bright red head and gray body. The males are especially distinctive, sporting a red head and upper neck, a black lower neck, foreback, breast, and a gray back. Females, on the other hand, are uniformly brown.

Native to North America, these ducks are common breeders in central Alaska, the Great Plains, and localized areas throughout the West. If you’re observant, you might notice their gregarious nature. They often molt, migrate, and winter in large flocks, particularly along the Gulf Coast.

The Redhead Duck has a unique twist when it comes to nesting. Many females lay their eggs in the nests of other ducks, a strategy known as “brood parasitism”. This interesting behavior adds a layer of intrigue to their already fascinating profile.

Their diet is varied, consisting of seeds, rhizomes, and tubers of pondweeds, wild celery, water lilies, and grasses. They also feast on wild rice, as well as mollusks, aquatic insects, and small fish.

As diving ducks, their skills are impressive. Yet, despite this, Redhead Ducks are the most common breeders in the United States. This fact underscores their adaptability and resilience, as well as their significant contribution to the diverse avian life in Washington State.

Gadwall Duck

The Gadwall Duck (Mareca strepera) is known for its intricate feather patterns. Males are gray-brown and sport a black tail patch. Females, on the other hand, are patterned with brown and buff. They’re similar to female Mallards but have a thinner, darker bill.

This duck breed has a fairly large, square head with a steep forehead. About the same size as Mallards, these ducks are anything but ordinary. Their unique feeding habits set them apart. They often snatch food from diving ducks as they surface. How’s that for opportunistic?

Their diet mainly consists of seeds, submerged aquatic vegetation, and aquatic invertebrates. It’s a varied diet that fuels their energy and sustains their lifestyle. Gadwalls are generally quiet ducks, save for their courtship display. It’s a fascinating aspect of their behavior that adds to their charm.

Native to North America and Eurasia, the Gadwall Duck prefers open wetlands. These include prairie or steppe lakes, wet grassland, and marshes with dense fringing vegetation. Despite their relatively unremarkable coloration, Gadwalls have seen a dramatic increase in numbers in North America since the 1980s. This increase is partly due to conservation efforts. The understated Gadwall Duck, with its unique traits and behaviors, is a key player in the rich tapestry of avian life in Washington State.

Bufflehead Duck

The Bufflehead Duck (Bucephala albeola) is a small, buoyant, large-headed diving duck, known for its striking colors. Males sport glossy green and purple heads, setting off an eye-catching white patch. On the other hand, females have a more subdued gray-brown hue, punctuated by a neat white patch on the cheek.

These ducks are the smallest diving ducks in North America, boasting a wingspan of 21.6 inches and an average weight of just about a pound. Don’t let their size fool you though, they’re known for their abrupt diving and resurfacing behavior as they feed. Winters find them bobbing in bays, estuaries, reservoirs, and lakes across the region.

The Bufflehead Duck’s diet is quite varied, comprising water insects, snails, crustaceans, and water plants. Nesting habits are interesting too. Buffleheads favor old woodpecker holes, particularly those made by Northern Flickers, in the forests of northern North America.

What’s more, they’re mostly monogamous, often sticking with the same mate for several years. Despite their small size, Buffleheads are full of energy.

Wood Duck

The Wood Duck is native to North America. These ducks are known for their unique shape and stunning beauty. Their boxy, crested heads, thin necks, and long, broad tails set them apart. Males sport iridescent chestnut and green feathers, while females have subdued gray-brown with a distinctive white pattern circling their eyes.

You’ll find Wood Ducks making their homes in wooded swamps. These ducks are one of the few species with strong claws, a trait that lets them perch on branches and grip bark. Nesting happens in tree cavities or nest boxes placed strategically around lake margins.

When it comes to feeding habits, the Wood Ducks is predominantly omnivorous. Their diet includes a range of food items from aquatic plant matter to acorns, seeds, berries, insects, and small invertebrates. Their adaptability and resilience shine through in their varied diet.

Historically, Wood Ducks faced the threat of extinction in the early 1900s due to hunting and habitat loss. However, through conservation efforts and the provision of nest boxes, they’ve made an astonishing recovery. Today, they are a symbol of nature’s resilience and human efforts to conserve wildlife.

Northern Shoveler Duck

The Northern Shoveler Duck or simply known as the shoveler in Britain, sets itself apart with a distinct, shovel-shaped bill. This feature makes it easy to spot among its duck counterparts. If you’re keen on observing colors, the males sport a dark gray bill while females show off a lighter gray with an orange edge.

These medium-sized dabbling ducks don’t just stand out in terms of physical traits. They’re also known for their unique feeding habits. You’d often find them foraging for food near the surface of shallow waters. Using their broad bills, they sift through marsh waters, picking out tiny crustaceans and seeds.

Their breeding takes place in the northern areas of Europe, across the Palearctic, and most of North America. When winter rolls around, they migrate to warmer regions like southern Europe, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, Central, the Caribbean, and northern South America.

Northern Shoveler Ducks are monogamous, often sticking together longer than most other pairs of dabbling ducks. This quality, combined with a striking appearance and unique feeding habits, makes them a fascinating species to study.

While there’s been a global decrease in their numbers, it’s notable that the North American population has shown significant growth since the 1980s. Conservation efforts seem to be paying off, allowing us to continue enjoying the presence of these unique ducks in our environment. This is a testament to the power of dedicated conservation work and a reminder of our role in preserving these species.

Ruddy Duck

The Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) is a small yet robust waterfowl native to North America. Its stout, scoop-shaped bill and long, stiff tail that it often flaunts upright are its key identifiers. It’s fascinating how the males, with their blackish caps and bright white cheeks, transition from rich chestnut bodies with bright blue bills in summer to a dull gray-brown and gray bills in winter.

The Ruddy Duck is known for its unique feeding habits. They plunge underwater to hunt for food, with their diet mainly comprising of aquatic invertebrates and plants. What’s more, these ducks can sink below the water surface as a tactical move to avoid predators.

Ruddy Ducks inhabit permanent freshwater marshes, lakes, and ponds during their breeding season. However, they show a preference for shallow marshes and coastal bays during winter. While they’re typically found alone, in pairs, or in small groups, they usually keep to their own kind, not flocking with other ducks or geese.

Despite their small size, it’s worth noting that they can get quite aggressive, especially during the breeding season. The good news for conservationists is their population has remained stable across North America from 1966 to 2019. This indicates a species of low conservation concern.

Scoter Duck

Scoter Ducks is a group that includes three unique species: the Black Scoter Duck, the White-winged Scoter, and the Surf Scoter. These ducks are part of the Melanitta genus and are known for their large size, dark plumage, and hefty bills.

Males of this species are predominantly black, while females sport a brown hue. Each species has a distinct feature: the Black Scoter has a yellow knob at the base of its black bill, the White-winged Scoter boasts a white speculum, and the Surf Scoter is admired for its multi-colored bill.

Scoter Ducks are true sea ducks. They spend most of their time in coastal marine environments, but they’re no strangers to freshwater habitats. These northernmost regions of North America and Eurasia are their preferred breeding grounds.

Their diet is quite diverse, consisting mainly of mollusks, crustaceans, and small fish. They’re diving ducks, which means they dip below the water’s surface in search of their meals.

When it comes to flight, Scoter Ducks are strong and direct, showcasing their power in the air. But they’re also sociable creatures, often forming large flocks during migration and winter. These flocks can be an impressive sight as they move together, painting a picture of unity and strength.

Goldeneye Duck

The Goldeneye Duck, more specifically the Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula), is a sea duck of medium size. The key feature that sets it apart is its golden-yellow eyes that shine like the sun. The males sport a dark black head with a greenish glow, and a white patch near their bills. Their bodies are covered in white or light grey feathers. Females, in contrast, have deep brown heads, light brown sides, and beige bellies.

Goldeneyes are not just good swimmers, they’re great divers too. They’re often seen in flocks, ranging from small groups of 4 to larger ones of 40. As for their diet, they mostly feed on aquatic invertebrates, fish, and fish eggs. They’re also known for their elaborate courtship displays. Males have been observed performing up to 14 different dances, a spectacle to behold.

Nesting high up in tree cavities, especially in the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska, these ducks have a unique habit. Females have been known to practice nest parasitism, where they lay eggs in the nests of other females.

Despite facing threats from hunting and environmental factors, the population of the Common Goldeneye remains fairly stable. This is not just a testament to their adaptability, but also an example of the balance in nature.

Long-tailed Duck

Long-tailed Duck, once known as the oldsquaw, is a medium-sized sea duck. Why? Well, it’s all in the name – males sport distinctive long tail feathers.

Nestled in the tundra and taiga regions of the Arctic, these ducks breed and then choose to winter along the northern coastlines of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. You’ll find males with their striking patterns of black, white, gray, and brown, complete with a long pointed tail. Females, on the other hand, display smudgy brown and white colors – minus the long tail.

What’s fascinating about the Long-Tailed Duck is its diving prowess. Capable of feeding as deep as 200 feet, they swim using their wings, deftly catching invertebrates and small fish.

Despite facing the threat of hunting across a large part of its range and a sharp drop in the number of birds wintering in the Baltic Sea, the Long-Tailed Duck is a testament to resilience and adaptability. Their story underscores the importance of conservation efforts.

Harlequin Duck

The Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus) is a native to North America and Eurasia. Don’t you think there’s something striking about the Harlequin Duck’s vivid colors? Males sport a deep slate blue body with white stripes, crescents, and spots on the head, neck, and scapulars. Females, on the other hand, are a chestnut brown with white facial patches.

The Harlequin Duck’s diet is quite diverse. They’re known for diving to feed on a variety of food sources. These include:

  • Crustaceans,
  • Mollusks,
  • Insects,
  • Small fish, and
  • Roe.

These ducks find their meals in both riverine and marine habitats. It’s fascinating, isn’t it? How they adapt to different environments for feeding.

During the breeding season, Harlequin Ducks become abundant in a few regions within their habitat range. However, they’re typically found in remote areas, often inaccessible to most people. This makes them a bit of a challenge to spot, but also adds to their allure.

Just like the Long-tailed Duck, the Harlequin Duck is a testament to the diversity and adaptability of ducks. It’s a reminder of the crucial role of conservation efforts in preserving these duck species.

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