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Today's Wildlife Field Identification Guide  

Waterfowl

Waterfowl are warm-blooded animals that live on or near water, and include diving ducks and puddle ducks.

Puddle ducks are found primarily on the shallows of lakes, rivers, and freshwater marshes. Puddle ducks prefer to feed on or near the water’s surface. They launch themselves directly upward when taking off.

Diving ducks inhabit large deep lakes and rivers, coastal bays, and inlets. Diving ducks obtain most of their food by diving. They must run across the water to build up speed to take off.

Range Maps

All animal descriptions are accompanied by a map showing the animal's habitat range. The maps are color-coded as follows:

  Summer Range
  Winter Range
  All-Year Range
Duck, American Wigeon (Puddle Duck)
American Wigeon Duck Drake
Drake
American Wigeon Duck Wings
American Wigeon Duck Hen
Hen
American Wigeon Duck Area Map
American Wigeon Duck Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Male is brown with white crown, green eye patch; green and white on wings visible in flight. Female is mottled brown with gray head. Both have pale blue bill.

Habitat and Habits:
Found on lakes, marshes, and ponds. Makes quacking and whistling sounds. Nests in grasses near water; 9 - 11 cream eggs.
Duck, Black (Puddle Duck)
Black Duck Drake
Drake
Black Duck Wings
Black Duck Hen
Hen
Black Duck Area Map
Black Duck Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Sexes are similar. Large brown duck with paler brown head and neck; violet patch on wings.

Habitat and Habits:
Summers on freshwater and saltwater marshes; winters along coast. Female quacks when separated from male; male makes soft, reedy noise. Nests in depressions in ground, close to water; 6 - 12 eggs, cream to greenish-buff colored.
Duck, Blue-Winged Teal (Puddle Duck)
Blue-winged Teal Drake
Drake
Blue-winged Teal Wings
Blue-winged Teal Hen
Hen
Blue-winged Teal Area Map
Blue-winged Teal Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Male is brown and buff speckled; gray head with white crescent in front of eye; pale blue patch on wings. Female is brown speckled; smaller pale blue patch on wings.

Habitat and Habits:

In summer found on small lakes in open grasslands; in winter on marshes and coastal areas. Male peeps; female quacks. Nests in grasses near water; 6 - 15 white eggs.
Duck, Bufflehead (Diving Duck)
Bufflehead Drake
Drake
Bufflehead Wings
Bufflehead Hen
Hen
Bufflehead Area Map
Bufflehead Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Male is mostly white with black back and white patch at back of head. Female is grayish with white patch below eye.

Habitat and Habits:

In summer found on lakes and rivers near woods; in winter on lakes and coastal areas. Male is usually silent; female quacks. Nests in tree cavities; 8 - 10 buff eggs.
Duck, Canvasback (Diving Duck)
Canvasback Drake
Drake
Canvasback Wings
Canvasback Hen
Hen
Canvasback Area Map
Canvasback Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Male has white body; reddish head; black breast, bill, and tail. Female has gray body and brown head.

Habitat and Habits:

In summer found on lakes and marshes; in winter on lakes and coastal waters. Male coos during breeding; female quacks. Nests in reeds and grasses; 7 - 12 greenish eggs.
Duck, Cinnamon Teal (Puddle Duck)
Cinnamon Teal Duck Drake
Drake
Cinnamon Teal Duck Wings
Cinnamon Teal Duck Hen
Hen
Cinnamon Teal Duck Area Map
Cinnamon Teal Duck Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Male has reddish body, neck, and head with black coloring on top of head, wings, and back. Female is speckled brown with white around bill.

Habitat and Habits:

Found on lakes and marshes. Male whistles; female quacks. Nests in grasses; 7 - 12 pinkish eggs.
Duck, Eurasian Wigeon (Puddle Duck)
Eurasian Wigeon Duck Drake
Drake
Eurasian Wigeon Duck Wings
Eurasian Wigeon Duck Hen
Hen
Eurasian Wigeon Duck Area Map
Male is gray with rust-colored head, pinkish chest, buff-colored crown. Female is mottled brown. Both have large white patches on shoulders and dull blue bill with black tip. Habitat and Habits:
Found on lakes, marshes, and ponds. Makes a 1- or 2-note whistling call; usually silent in United States. Nests in grasses hidden in vegetation; 7 - 10 white eggs.
Duck, Gadwall (Puddle Duck)
Gadwall Drake
Drake
Gadwall Wings
Gadwall Hen
Hen
Gadwall Area Map
Gadwall Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Male is gray with light brown head; white patch on back of wing; black rump. Female is mottled brown with white patch on back of wing.

Habitat and Habits:

Found on open lakes and marshes. Male makes a whistle and “kack-kack.” Nests on islands in colonies; 7 - 13 white eggs.
Duck, Barrow's Goldeneye (Diving Duck)
Barrow's Goldeneye Drake
Drake
Barrow's Goldeneye Wings
Common Goldeneye Hen
Hen
Barrow's Goldeneye Area Map
Common Goldeneye Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Male is white with black back and head; head actually purple in bright light; black and white wings; white spot in front of eye; black bill. Female is gray with brown head and white collar; usually a yellow-orange bill.

Habitat and Habits:

In summer found on wooded lakes and rivers; in winter on coastal areas. Male grunts and croaks during courtship; female is mostly silent. Nests in hollow trees or rock crevices; 5 - 15 pale olive-colored eggs.
Duck, Common Goldeneye (Diving Duck)
Common Goldeneye Drake
Drake
Common Goldeneye Wings
Common Goldeneye Hen
Hen
Common Goldeneye Area Map
Common Goldeneye Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Male has white flanks; black head and back with round white spot below eye. Female is gray with dark head and white collar.

Habitat and Habits:

In summer found on lakes and marshes; in winter on lakes and coastal areas. Male makes a shrill whistle; female a low quack during breeding. Otherwise, usually quiet. Nests in tree cavities; 5 - 15 light green eggs.
Duck, Green-Winged Teal (Puddle Duck)
Green-winged Teal Drake
Drake
Green-winged Teal Wings
Green-winged Teal Hen
Hen
Green-winged Teal Area Map
Green-winged Teal Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Male is gray with white vertical bar on shoulder; rust head with green band. Female is speckled dark brown and white with dark band across eye.

Habitat and Habits:

In summer found on ponds and lakes; in winter on rivers and coastal marshes. Male whistles; female quacks. Nests in grasses not always near water; 7 - 15 pale green eggs.
Duck, Mallard (Puddle Duck)
Mallard Drake
Drake
Mallard Wings
Mallard Hen
Hen
Mallard Area Map
Mallard Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Most common duck. Male often called “greenhead.”

Habitat and Habits:

Found in deep lakes, slow rivers, ponds, and sometimes bays. Main wintering area is the lower Mississippi basin and along the Gulf Coast; many as far north as open waters permit. Female quacks loudly; male makes quiet “yeeb” or low “kwek.” Nests near water; 8 - 10 greenish-white eggs.
Duck, Common Merganser (Diving Duck)
Common Merganser Drake
Drake
Common Merganser Wings
Common Merganser Hen
Hen
Common Merganser Area Map
Common Merganser Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Male has dark green head; dark back; white neck and underside. Female is grayish-brown with reddish-brown head and white breast.

Habitat and Habits:

In summer found on lakes and rivers near woods; in winter on freshwater lakes and ponds. Nests in tree cavities and rock crevices; 8 - 11 cream eggs.
Duck, Hooded Merganser (Diving Duck)
Hooded Merganser Drake
Drake
Hooded Merganser Wings
Hooded Merganser Hen
Hen
Hooded Merganser Area Map
Hooded Merganser Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Male has dark crested head with white patches, brownish sides, and white breast. Female is gray with reddish-brown crest and lighter gray breast.

Habitat and Habits:
In summer found on rivers and lakes in wooded areas; in winter on coastal areas. Male makes a croak-like sound; female a “gak.” Nests in tree cavities; 6 - 18 white eggs.
Duck, Red-Breasted Merganser (Diving Duck)
Red-breasted Merganser Duck Drake
Drake
Red-breasted Merganser Duck Wings
Red-breasted Merganser Duck Hen
Hen
Red-breasted Merganser Duck Area Map
Red-breasted Merganser Duck Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Male has dark green head, white neck, rusty red breast, and gray sides. Female is gray speckled with light red head and grayish neck.

Habitat and Habits:

In summer found on rivers and lakes; in winter on coastal areas. Nests under shrubs and logs; 5 - 11 greenish eggs.
Duck, Northern Pintail (Puddle Duck)
Northern Pintail Drake
Drake
Northern Pintail Wings
Northern Pintail Hen
Hen
Northern Pintail Area Map
Northern Pintail Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Long-necked, slender duck with pointed tail. Male has dark brown head; white breast and neck; gray flanks and wings. Female has light brown-speckled body; light brown head and neck; gray bill.

Habitat and Habits:

Summers on marshes and ponds; winters on coastal bays, lakes, and grain fields. Female quacks coarsely; male whistles. Nests near water; 6 - 12 light green eggs.
Duck, Northern Shoveler (Puddle Duck)
Northern Shoveler Drake
Drake
Northern Shoveler Wings
Northern Shoveler Hen
Hen
Northern Shoveler Area Map
Northern Shoveler Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Male has dark green head; white breast; rust-colored wings. Female is brown-flecked with pale blue on shoulders.

Habitat and Habits:

Found on shallow lakes and ponds, and sometimes on brackish marshes. Male croaks; female quacks. Nests in grasses, not always near water; 6 - 14 pale green eggs.
Duck, Redhead (Diving Duck)
Redhead Drake
Drake
Redhead Wings
Redhead Hen
Hen
Redhead Area Map
Redhead Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Male is gray with reddish head and black breast. Female is brown with darker brown back and crown.

Habitat and Habits:
Found on lakes and bays. Male makes “meow” sound or quacks; female makes a soft low call. Nests in rushes and grasses; 9 - 13 pale eggs.
Duck, Ring-Necked (Diving Duck)
Ring-necked Duck Drake
Drake
Ring-necked Duck Wings
Ring-necked Duck Hen
Hen
Ring-necked Duck Area Map
Ring-necked Duck Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Male is black with pale gray sides. Female is brown with darker back and has white-ringed eyes.

Habitat and Habits:

In summer found on lakes and marshes; in winter on large lakes and coastal areas. Nests in grasses near water; 6 - 14 pale green eggs.
Duck, Ruddy (Diving Duck)
Ruddy Duck Drake
Drake
Ruddy Duck Wings
Ruddy Duck Hen
Hen
Ruddy Duck Area Map
Ruddy Duck Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Male is reddish-brown with black head and white cheek; in winter male looks similar to female. Female is brown; darker on head and back.

Habitat and Habits:

In summer found on lakes; in winter on coastal areas. Both sexes are mostly silent. Nests in grasses near water; 6 - 10 white eggs.
Duck, Greater Scaup (Diving Duck)
Greater Scaup Drake
Drake
Greater Scaup Wings
Greater Scaup Hen
Hen
Greater Scaup Area Map
Greater Scaup Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Male has light gray body and white sides with dark head, breast, and tail. Female is dark brown with white spots on either side of bill. Heads on both are shaped like a rounded rectangle. Light band on edge of wings extends almost to the tip.

Habitat and Habits:

In summer found on lakes, bays, and ponds; in winter often found on salt water and coastal ponds. Male makes a “scaup, scaup” call; female is mostly silent. Nests in grasses on land or on islands away from shore; 8 - 12 pale green eggs.
Duck, Lesser Scaup (Diving Duck)
Lesser Scaup Drake
Drake
Lesser Scaup Wings
Lesser Scaup Hen
Hen
Lesser Scaup Area Map
Lesser Scaup Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Male has white flanks with dark head, breast, and tail; speckled gray back. Female is dark brown with white spots on either side of bill base.

Habitat and Habits:

In summer found on lakes and marshes; in winter on lakes and coastal areas. Male makes a purring call; females are mostly silent. Nests in grasses near water; 8 - 14 pale green eggs.
Duck, Whistling (Diving Duck)
Whistling Duck Fulvous
Fulvous
Whistling Duck Area Map
Whistling Duck Black Bellied
Black-bellied
Whistling Duck Black Bellied Area Map
Whistling Duck Wings Male and female fulvous duck have reddish-brown body with darker back. Male and female black-bellied duck have gray head, light brown back, black underside, and white on sides.

Habitat and Habits:

Fulvous is found in fields, ponds, and marshes; black-bellied on ponds and marshes. All make a whistling call. Fulvous nests in grasses; black-bellied in tree cavities. Both have 12 - 14 whitish eggs.
Duck, Wood (Puddle Duck)
Wood Duck Drake
Drake
Wood Duck Wings
Wood Duck Hen
Hen
Wood Duck Area Map
Wood Duck Eclipse Drake
Eclipse Drake
Male has colorful crested head and red eyes; iridescent greens, purples, and blues over entire body with white marking. Female is light brown speckled and has white-ringed eyes.

Habitat and Habits:

Found on swamps, ponds, and rivers near wooded areas. Male makes a “hoo-w-ett” call; female a “oo-eek.” Nests in tree cavities; 10 - 15 dull whitish eggs.
Goose, Canada
Canada Geese Canada Geese Area Map
Both male and female are brownish-gray; black head and tail; white patch on cheek, breast, and underside. Habitat and Habits:
Found on lakes, marshes, fields, and parks. Male and female make honking call. Nests on water edges; 4 - 7 white eggs.
Goose, Snow
Snow Geese
Immature (above); Adult (below)
Snow Geese Area Map
Male and female are white with dark gray on underside of wings; short neck; large head. Habitat and Habits:
In summer found on tundra; in winter on fields and wetlands. Male and female both honk. Nests in grasses near water in colonies; 3 - 5 white eggs.
Goose, Greater White-Fronted
White-fronted Goose
Immature (above); Adult (below)
White-fronted Goose Area Map
Male and female are brown with white ring around base of bill; black bars on belly; orange bill and feet. Habitat and Habits:
In summer found on tundra; in winter on fields and marshes. Male and female make a high-pitched “kow-kow-kow-kow.” Nests in depressions; 4 - 7 whitish eggs.
Swan, Trumpeter
Trumpeter Swan
Adult (above); Immature (below)
Trumpeter Swan Area Map
One of the largest, rarest North American waterfowl. All white with a black bill. (Swans, unlike snow geese, do not have black wingtips. Also, swans are much larger and have longer necks than snow geese.)
Habitat and Habits:
Almost driven into extinction, their numbers have been increasing due to conservation efforts. Prefer bodies of water with dense vegetation. Found in marshes, lakes, and rivers mostly in the Northwest.Nests in bulrushes and beaver lodges; 4 - 6 whitish eggs.
Swan, Tundra
Tundra Swan
Immature (above); Adult (below)
Credit:Joanna Littlefield
Tundra Swan Area Map
Most common swan in western part of North America. All white; black bill with yellow spot in front of eye. Habitat and Habits:
In summer found on artic tundra; in winter on marshes, lakes, and ponds. Makes a "hoo-ho-hoo" or "kow-wow" call. Nests on mounds of grass on island or shore of tundra lake; 2 - 7 cream-colored eggs.
North American Flyways

North American Flyways

There are four major North American flyways—the Pacific, the Central, the Mississippi, and the Atlantic Flyways. The migration route is from the northern breeding grounds to the southern wintering grounds. The lanes of heaviest concentration conform very closely to major topographical features, following the coasts, mountain ranges, and principal river valleys. Except along the coasts, the flyway boundaries are not always sharply defined.
North American flyways
Pacific Flyway
Central Flyway
Mississippi Flyway
Atlantic Flyway
Credits: Except as otherwise noted, all illustrations are reprinted from U.S. Parks & Wildlife Service publication Ducks At A Distance, A Waterfowl Identification Guide, illustrated by Bob Hines
Wildlife Guide
White-tailed deer tracks
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Online wildlife identification guide last modified: January 3, 2008
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