When you picture a duck, you might imagine a white bird with orange legs. Or maybe you picture a brightly-colored mallard. But did you know there’s a huge range of brilliantly-colored wild and domestic ducks around the world? Here’s a collection of impressive breeds you won’t soon forget!
List of Colorful Ducks
Here’s our list of the most colorful ducks in the world:
1. Mandarin Duck
- Latin name: Aix galericulata
- Habitat: Eastern part of the Palearctic realm (largely eastern Asia)
- Size: About 1.4-2.4 pounds
- Diet: Mostly seeds and plants, though they will also eat snails, fish, and insects
- Colorful feature: Male mandarin ducks are very colorful. As you can see from the photo, they are intricately patterned with purple, white, green, red, and orange.
No list of colorful ducks is complete without this one! The mandarin duck’s beautiful coloration has made it popular among waterfowl keepers. In some areas, ducks have escaped from collections and formed feral populations. You can find some of these populations in Dublin, Great Britain, and even North Carolina!
2. Flying Steamer Duck
- Latin name: Tachyeres patachonicus
- Habitat: Near water in the southern part of South America
- Size: About 3.7-8 pounds
- Diet: Mostly mollusks, crustaceans, and other marine invertebrates
- Colorful feature: The striking laced feathers of the flying steamer duck are somewhat uncommon in the duck world. Most of these ducks are pale gray-brown with darker brownish-black “lacing” around the feathers. They also have a few white patches that stand out against the cool-shaded base color.
You might wonder where the name “steamer duck” comes from. That’s because when these large, aggressive birds charge across the water, they churn their wings like the paddles of a paddle steamer. Since this type of charging is very noisy, it’s an effective way of scaring off enemies.
3. Ringed Teal
- Latin name: Callonetta leucophrys
- Habitat: Forests in parts of central South America
- Size: About 0.7-0.75 pounds
- Diet: Mostly plants and insects close to the surface of the water
- Colorful feature: Male ringed teals are more colorful than females; they have salmon-colored breasts dotted in black, rich red-chestnut backs, gray flanks, and a black band down the neck.
These smallish forest ducks are not as well studied as some other duck varieties. Like many species on the list, they are classified as “dabbling ducks.” These are ducks who mostly feed on the top of the water as opposed to diving deep down for food.
4. Maned Duck
- Latin name: Chenonetta jubata
- Habitat: Various habitat types
- Size: About 1.5-2.1 pounds
- Diet: Mostly grains, herbs, grasses, clover, and sometimes insects
- Colorful feature: These striking ducks have beautifully mottled breasts of white and brown. Their heads are chestnut brown and there is a mane-like tuft along the back of the neck.
This duck is closely related to the ringed teal. You may sometimes hear it called the Australian wood duck or the maned goose (even though it is classified as a duck). It does look a lot like a small goose. But it stands out from many other ducks in that it prefers foraging on land over foraging in water.
5. White-Faced Whistling Duck
- Latin name: Dendrocygna viduata
- Habitat: Freshwater lakes and reservoirs in Africa and South America
- Size: About 1-2 pounds
- Diet: Seeds and various types of plant matter
- Colorful feature: This duck’s most stunning feature is its bright white face. The face stands out against the black head. This duck also has a rich red breast and an intricately barred black and buff body.
This pretty duck is named for its distinctive, three-note whistle. It is somewhat unique in that it effectively has two disjointed ranges: one in Africa and one in South America. It lives in the same type of habitat in both ranges. Experts believe that at some point, humans may have transported it across continents, allowing it to establish separate populations.
6. East Indie Duck
- Latin name: Anas platyrhynchos domesticus
- Habitat: Domestic
- Size: About 1.5-2 pounds
- Diet: Various types of plant matter and insects
- Colorful feature: This stunning duck has black feathers with a green sheen. Depending on the light, the duck may look more black or more green. That striking green glow explains why you sometimes see this breed called the Emerald.
Nobody seems to know exactly where this duck breed came from. It has been called the Black East Indian, the Labrador, The Brazilian, or the Buenos Airean duck. However, these names only deepen the mystery: the East Indie doesn’t have any known association with Brazil, Buenos Aires, the East Indies, or Labrador. The East Indie is a bantam breed of domestic duck, and it’s most often kept by poultry exhibitors or those who prefer ornamental bird breeds.
7. Silver Appleyard Duck
- Latin name: Anas platyrhyncos
- Habitat: Domestic
- Size: About 6-8 pounds
- Diet: Various types of plant matter and sometimes insects
- Colorful feature: These beautiful ducks often have a color that is silver overall. But as you can see in the picture, that “silver” is often a complex pattern of black, gray, brown, and white.
This stocky British breed of duck was originally developed in the 1930s. The breed developer, Reginald Appleyard, intended to create a breed useful for both meat and eggs. Despite its beauty and usefulness, this breed of duck is classified as “threatened” by the Livestock Conservancy. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations lists it as being critically endangered.
8. African Pygmy Goose
- Latin name: Nettapus auritus
- Habitat: Various bodies of water covered in water lilies in Madagascar and sub-Saharan Africa
- Size: About 0.6 pounds
- Diet: Mostly water-lily seeds, though they will also eat other types of plant matter, insects, and some other smaller invertebrates
- Colorful feature: The males of this species are especially colorful. They have a black-rimmed, powder-green patch on the neck, a dark iridescent green back, and red chestnut flanks and breast. The face and belly are white, and the beak is a bright yellow-orange.
Despite the name, the African pygmy goose is actually a small breed of duck. The name might come from the fact that it has a bill shaped more like that of a goose. This species is somewhat unusual in that it is nomadic. And despite its beauty, it isn’t routinely kept as a pet or ornamental animal. In nature, its breeding season is determined by rains, so it is extremely difficult to breed in captivity.
9. King Eider
- Latin name: Somateria spectabilis
- Habitat: Various tundra habitats throughout the Arctic
- Size: About 2-5 pounds
- Diet: Various types of invertebrates, including mollusks, crustaceans, sea anemones, and sea urchins
- Colorful feature: This stunning bird looks like something out of a watercolor painting! In breeding plumage, males have a head patterned in pastel slate blue, soft green, bright yellow, and black. Their beaks are a deep red orange.
This exotic-looking bird is one of the relatively few “sea ducks” on the list. It’s able to dive deep into the sea to catch various types of invertebrates. However, during breeding season, it feeds more like a dabbling duck. As it swims along various bodies of freshwater, it collects insects and other smallish invertebrates that are near the surface.
10. White-Cheeked Pintail
- Latin name: Anas bahamensis
- Habitat: Usually areas by brackish water in South America, the Caribbean, and the Galapagos Islands
- Size: About 1.1-1.3 pounds
- Diet: Various aquatic plants and aquatic invertebrates
- Colorful feature: This stunning duck has distinctive brown and gold patterning on the belly. Its bright reddish beak creates a striking contrast with its white cheeks.
This duck is also called the “Bahama duck” or the “southern duck.” And if you take a good look at its striking coloration, you’ll see why it’s a popular choice among keepers of wildfowl. The “wild type” coloration is beautiful enough, but there’s also a white morph sometimes found in captivity. This one is marketed as the silver Bahama pintail.
11. Tufted Duck
- Latin name: Aythya fuligula
- Habitat: Mostly marshes and lakes with plenty of vegetation in northern Eurasia
- Size: About 1.7-2 pounds
- Diet: Mostly mollusks, insects, and aquatic plants
- Colorful feature: Both males and females have mesmerizing, intense yellow eyes. Males are largely glossy black with white flanks, while females are glossy black or near-black.
These sleek-looking ducks are some of the most striking on the list. The males in particular have very high-contrast coloring, and the “tuft” in the name is a patch of longer feathering off the back of the head. Its scientific name references aithuia, a type of seabird mentioned by Aristotle and other ancient Greek authors.
12. White-Winged Duck
- Latin name: Asarcornis scutulata
- Habitat: Tropical evergreen forest in parts of Asia (ranging from northeast India to Sumatra)
- Size: About 4-9 pounds
- Diet: Seeds, plants, rice, insects, snails, and small fish
- Colorful feature: The white-winged duck has unique and eye-catching patterning. Much of the body is black, and the head is white and mottled with various amounts of black. As the name suggests, it has white wing coverts, too.
At one point, this unique-looking duck was believed to be in the same genus as the Muscovy duck, a species that looks similar. However, more recent research indicates that the two breeds are not closely related. Unfortunately, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the white-winged duck as an endangered species.
13. Wood Duck
- Latin name: Aix sponsa
- Habitat: Habitats near water in North America, especially eastern North America and California
- Size: About 1-2 pounds
- Diet: Mostly seeds, acorns, berries, and insects
- Colorful feature: Males are the more colorful sex. They are patterned with multiple iridescent colors including green, blue, orange, black, reddish brown, white, and buff. Females are a more subdued, clouded gray-brown, although they have a patch of iridescent blue on the wings, too.
Many of the colorful ducks on the list are from Asia and South America. However, the wood duck hails from North America, where it is easily one of the most colorful waterfowl. Wood ducks can of course be found in the wild, but thanks to their incredible colors, they are also popular in waterfowl collections.
- Latin name: Anas platyrhynchos
- Habitat: Domestic
- Size: About 5-6.5 pounds
- Diet: Various types of plant matter and some insects
- Colorful feature: The Ancona breed is known for its irregular coloring. It’s usually a mixture of black and white, although the patches of each are irregular. Black and white is the most common variety, but these ducks can be marked with blue, lavender, chocolate, or silver instead of black.
This colorful domestic duck breed likely came from the same stock that created the magpie breed. The breed isn’t recognized by the American Poultry Association or the Poultry Club of Great Britain. However, the Livestock Conservancy lists it as a breed to watch, though it is not currently endangered or threatened.
- Latin name: Bucephala albeola
- Habitat: Mostly inland waters or protected coastal waters on the eastern and western coasts of North America
- Size: About 0.6-1.2 pounds
- Diet: Mostly insects, mollusks, and crustaceans, though they will also eat aquatic plants and fish eggs
- Colorful feature: Male buffleheads are the most colorful. Their faces are a mix of metallic green and metallic purple, while there is a patch of bright white across the back of the head. When the birds are in flight, you can see a distinctly beautiful pattern of black and white across the wings and body.
This unique breed’s interesting coloration is made all the more memorable by the interesting shape of the head. Its common name is a nod to its strangely-shaped head, too, as it is a combination of the word “buffalo” with the word “head.” The males tend to have more bulbous heads.
16. Cayuga Duck
- Latin name: Anas platyrhynchos domesticus
- Habitat: Domestic
- Size: About 7-8 pounds
- Diet: Various types of plant matter and some insects
- Colorful feature: The beautiful Cayuga duck is black with a greenish sheen. In some individuals, the sheen looks a lot like the iridescent shell of a june beetle.
The Cayuga duck breed was developed around the Finger Lakes in New York state. The name of the breed comes from the Cayuga Native Americans who lived in the same area. At one point, this breed was mostly raised for meat. Now, it’s a popular ornamental breed and is sometimes kept for exhibition.
17. Ruddy Duck
- Latin name: Oxyura jamaicensis
- Habitat: Marsh-like ponds and lakes in central North America and much of Central America
- Size: About 1-1.5 pounds
- Diet: Mostly seeds, roots, crustaceans, and insects
- Colorful feature: The summer plumage of the male ruddy duck is truly a sight to behold! The body is a rich chestnut brown. The top of the head is black while the bottom part is white. But the most colorful feature of all is probably the bill: it turns bright sky blue!
Though the ruddy duck is from North America, it began to multiply across Europe after first being imported in 1948. It started to cause problems when it began interbreeding with the white-headed duck, a similar-looking endangered species. The ruddy duck is included on the Invasive Alien Species of Union concern and has been since 2016.
18. Magpie Duck
- Latin name: Anas platyrhynchos
- Habitat: Domestic
- Size: About 4.5-6 pounds
- Diet: Various types of plant matter and some insects
- Colorful feature: As the name suggests, the magpie duck has splotches of black and white feathering that make it look a bit like the European magpie. However, the British Poultry Association recognizes two color variants: blue and white and dun and white.
The magpie duck is a sturdily-built bird perfect for backyard flocks. It is especially hardy and likes to forage. It also lays large eggs. The magpie duck is one of the older domestic breeds, as it has been around since about 1920. It is much more common in Great Britain than it is in the United States, but the American Poultry Association recognizes it as a breed as well.
19. Hawaiian Duck
- Latin name: Anas wyvilliana
- Habitat: Can be found throughout Hawaii
- Size: About 1-1.5 pounds
- Diet: Mostly aquatic plants, algae, and various types of marine invertebrates
- Colorful feature: These distinctive ducks often look a bit like female mallards, as they are mottled brown in color. They also have a deep blue patch on the wing.
And as you can see in the picture, males have dark black necks with a broad creamy or off-white stripe down the side.
This duck species was considered to be a subspecies of the mallard at one point, as it does closely resemble the female mallard. And while it’s a different species, female Hawaiian ducks will often breed with male mallards. Experts believe it’s possible that the female Hawaiian ducks are drawn to the bright coloring of the male mallards.
20. Barrow’s Goldeneye
- Latin name: Bucephala islandica
- Habitat: Mostly woodland ponds and lakes in northwestern North America, though they can sometimes be found in Iceland and Canada
- Size: About 1.3-2.1 pounds
- Diet: Crustaceans, aquatic insects, and aquatic vegetation
- Colorful feature: As you can likely guess from the name, the Barrow’s goldeneye has intense, captivating gold-yellow eyes. They form a striking contrast with the deep, glossy black head of the males. The black feathering has a faintly purplish sheen, and it’s broken up by rich, snowy white spots.
The Barrow’s goldeneye is somewhat unusual in that it’s a very territorial duck. Males will create a territorial display if other ducks encroach on their territory (whether it’s on land or in the water). Other ducks will often make a competing display in return. While experts know a good bit about their territorial displays, they don’t know very much about the breeding habits of this somewhat secretive species.
21. Muscovy Duck
- Latin name: Cairina moschata
- Habitat: Some tropical parts of the Americas, though it is also kept as a domestic duck
- Size: About 6-15 pounds
- Diet: Mostly plant material and small aquatic animals
- Colorful feature: The Muscovy duck has an especially striking red bill and face. That coloring forms a sharp contrast with the largely white body. These ducks also have patches of glossy black.
You might wonder where the name of this large duck comes from. After all, “Muscovy” is a region of Russia, but these birds are native to tropical parts of the Americas. It’s possible that the name “Muscovy” comes from the name of a trading company that would occasionally import them to Europe in the 1500s!
22. Northern Pintail
- Latin name: Anas acuta
- Habitat: Mostly across the Palearctic regions and northern Europe and North America, although it may spend the winter as far south as the equator
- Size: About 1-3 pounds
- Diet: Mostly aquatic plants, though they also will eat marine invertebrates
- Colorful feature: The males are generally more colorful than the females. The main body color is pale grayish brown, while the head is a deep liver chestnut. But the most striking feature is probably the white stripe that extends up along the head from the neck.
This hardy and versatile duck has one of the largest ranges on the list. But even though its range is large, there are no subspecies based on geographic region. The northern pintail is a popular bird among hunters, and it’s hunted in nearly every part of its range. Despite that fact, it is not considered to be threatened or near threatened.
23. Red-Crested Pochard
- Latin name: Netta rufina
- Habitat: Mostly marshes and lakes in southern Europe, though it winters as far south as Africa and India
- Size: About 2-3 pounds
- Diet: Primarily various types of aquatic plants
- Colorful feature: The males of this species are some of the most distinctive on the list. Their rounded heads are an intense yellowish-brown, while the beaks are closer to red-orange. The breast is black, while the back is patterned with white and chocolate brown.
The red-crested pochard is more social than many other types of ducks. You can often find it in large flocks of both its species and other species. And like many other duck species, it has formed colonies of escaped and deliberately released individuals. This is especially common in the British Isles, where it has developed a feral population.
24. Pacific Black Duck
- Latin name: Anas superciliosa
- Habitat: Many Pacific islands including Indonesia, Australia, New Guinea, and New Zealand
- Size: About 2.2-2.5 pounds
- Diet: Mostly the seeds of aquatic plants, although it will also eat various types of marine invertebrates
- Colorful feature: Contrary to what the name implies, the Pacific black duck is not really black. Its feathers are typically dark gray brown with pale, off-white lacing. But as you can see in the photo, the most stunning feature is probably the iridescent patch on each wing. Depending on the lighting and the individual bird, the color of the patch can range from aqua to cerulean to turquoise.
The Pacific black duck is another of the species that will often hybridize with the mallard. And throughout the native range of the species, it’s not unusual to see mallard hybrids. To the untrained eye, it can be difficult to distinguish a Pacific black duck from a black duck/mallard hybrid.
25. Comb Duck
- Latin name: Sarkidiornis sylvicola
- Habitat: Tropical wetlands in many parts of South America
- Size: About 2-6.5 pounds
- Diet: Mostly vegetation, but it will also eat fish and some marine invertebrates
- Colorful feature: Comb ducks have bodies that are mostly a glossy, iridescent black that forms a stark contrast against the white breast. The neck and head have a mesmerizing mottling of black and white, too.
The comb duck is probably the strangest-looking duck on the list! Males have a dark bill with a very prominent black nob on the crest. This species will perch and nest in trees, something that not every duck species will do.
26. Harlequin Duck
- Latin name: Histrionicus histrionicus
- Habitat: Coastal regions in northeastern and northwestern North America, as well as eastern Russia, Iceland, and Greenland
- Size: About 1.3 pounds
- Diet: Crustaceans, insects, and mollusks
- Colorful feature: The male ducks of this species have incredibly intricate coloring. Their heads are dark slate blue, their sides are reddish, and their breasts are gray. But the most memorable feature just might be their multiple streaks of white, each of which has a dramatic black outline.
This colorful duck is another of the relatively few “sea ducks” on the list. And while it’s very distinctive, it’s known by a number of other names, including lords and ladies, totem pole duck, painted duck, glacier duck, rock duck, squeaker, blue streak, mountain duck, and white-eyed diver.
27. Hooded Merganser
- Latin name: Lophodytes cucullatus
- Habitat: Rivers, ponds, and lakes in much of eastern North America and some regions of western North America
- Size: About 1-2 pounds
- Diet: Mostly fish, insects, and some other aquatic invertebrates
- Colorful feature: Male hooded mergansers have intricate patterning. Their crests are black with a large white patch. Their sides are a ruddy tan, and the flight feathers appear to be striated with black and white. They have intense yellow eyes that stand out from their otherwise-neutral coloring.
Both males and females of this colorful species have prominent and eye-catching crests or “hoods.” With their striking and unusual coloring, it’s no wonder that the species is commonly kept in captivity in Europe. In some parts of Europe, escaped birds have formed small feral colonies.
28. Long-Tailed Duck
- Latin name: Clangula hyemalis
- Habitat: Northern coasts of both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as well as throughout the Arctic
- Size: About 1.63 pounds on average
- Diet: Fish, mollusks, and crustaceans
- Colorful feature: Both males and females have some degree of brown and white patterning. Males have a particularly striking contrast, as their bodies are mostly white with geometric brown patterning. The male bird’s bill also has a streak of salmon pink going down the middle.
Take one look at the long-tailed duck and you’ll see where the name comes from! Males are the only ones with the long tail. The tail feathers often curl upward, giving the duck a truly unique silhouette.
29. Baikal Teal
- Latin name: Anas formosa
- Habitat: Spends the breeding season in eastern Russia and spends the winter in East Asia
- Size: About 1 pound on average
- Diet: Mostly grains, seeds, and aquatic vegetation
- Colorful feature: Teals are some of the world’s most interestingly colored ducks, and male Baikal teals are no exception. Males have heads that are a striking combination of green, black, white, and yellow. The body appears painted in a number of different colors including slate gray, brown, and rosy red.
This beautiful species is currently listed by the IUCN as a species of least concern. However, it was once listed as being vulnerable to extinction. Since 2011, its wild numbers seem to be improving, although hunting and habitat destruction still pose threats.
30. Falcated Duck
- Latin name: Mareca falcata
- Habitat: Mostly wetlands in the eastern Palearctic region
- Size: About 1-1.7 pounds
- Diet: Mostly vegetation, insects, and small aquatic animals
- Colorful feature: Both males and females of this species have bodies that are covered in unique patterning. Males are chocolate and white, while females are deep brown and gold. Males have distinctive brown heads that are marked with a swatch of iridescent green.
Unfortunately, this beautiful species is classified as being near threatened by the IUCN. It is often hunted for its feathers and for food. Wetland drainage for development also has adversely impacted its population. However, it was formerly considered to be an endangered species, so its numbers are improving!
31. Red Shoveler
- Latin name: Anas platalea
- Habitat: Near lakes and shallow bodies of water in southern South America
- Size: About 1.2-1.3 pounds
- Diet: Grasses, aquatic vegetation, herbs, and various aquatic invertebrates
- Colorful feature: This duck variety has a body that is largely a rich, rusty red. It is covered with small, cheetah-like black spots. The tail feathers are usually dark brown to black with some white feathers mixed in.
This bird’s bill looks about like what you would expect it to look like, given the common name of the species. Its bill is long with a broad, relatively flat tip. The bill makes it easier for this species to forage both on land and in the water. Though its population is not currently considered to be threatened, the continued drainage of wetland habitats poses a likely future threat.
32. Torrent Duck
- Latin name: Merganetta armata
- Habitat: Sheltered areas along fast-moving rivers near South America’s western coast
- Size: About 0.7-1 pound
- Diet: Mostly various types of aquatic invertebrates
- Colorful feature: In this species, females are often more colorful than males. As you can see in the picture, female torrent ducks tend to have reddish-brown bodies with black and white barring on the head and rump. The bright reddish bill and tinge of green on the wings make them even more memorable.
This aptly-named duck is somewhat unique in that it tends to live near very fast-moving rivers. It is an incredibly good swimmer and diver and can forage even in difficult water conditions. There are a few different subspecies of this interesting bird, but most of them look relatively similar.
33. Rosy-Billed Pochard
- Latin name: Netta peposaca
- Habitat: Wetlands with tall grasses in southern South America
- Size: About 2.2-2.6 pounds
- Diet: Seeds, grasses, and other types of plant matter
- Colorful feature: The most colorful feature of these striking ducks is, as you may have guessed, the rosy-red bill. The knob at the base of the bill becomes larger and redder during breeding season.
You might sometimes see this species called the rosybill or the rosybill pochard. And just like with many bright birds on the list, the males are the only ones with the bright red beak. Females tend to be a more uniform, dull brown, while males are an interesting mixture of black, white, and gray.
34. Pink-Eared Duck
- Latin name: Malacorhynchus membranaceus
- Habitat: Various areas with standing water in southern and central Australia
- Size: About 0.5-1 pound
- Diet: Mostly plankton and various other types of aquatic invertebrates
- Colorful feature: In Australia, the pink-eared duck is often called the “zebra duck.” That’s because its sides are an eye-catching mix of dark brown and white striped. The “pink-eared” in the common name references a small pinkish spot on the feathering approximately where its ears are.
This duck has a broad, flat bill much like the various species of shoveler ducks. The bill helps them to filter tiny organisms out of the water. This species has an interesting and effective way of concentrating food to make it easier to catch. Sometimes, two ducks will swim in a circle in order to include a tornado-like “vortex” of water. Food is pulled into that vortex making it easier for the ducks to catch.
- Latin name: Mergellus albellus
- Habitat: Lakes and rivers in northern Europe and the Palearctic
- Size: About 1-1.4 pounds
- Diet: Mostly small fish
- Colorful feature: Both male and female smews are colorful. Females are sometimes called “redheads,” as their heads are a ruddy red with a white bottom. Males have a “cracked ice” pattern of black lines and angular black patches on a white base coat.
The smew may well be an ancient duck variety. Fossils of very similar birds have been dated as far back as 13 million years ago! The species itself has been around since the Late Pleistocene epoch, so it existed at least 11,700 years ago.
36. Silver Teal
- Latin name: Spatula versicolor
- Habitat: Freshwater habitats in South America
- Size: About 0.8-1 pound
- Diet: Mostly aquatic plants and seeds
- Colorful feature: The male silver teal is especially colorful. His bill is bright yellow with accents of powder blue and black. His body includes a few different patterns of black (or dark brown) and white, including lacing and barring.
These family-oriented ducks are generally placid, but they are especially protective of eggs and offspring. Both parents raise the ducklings, and they typically live in small family groups. There are two subspecies: the northern silver teal and the southern silver teal. Both look relatively similar.
37. Australian Shelduck
- Latin name: Tadorna tadornoides
- Habitat: Habitats near water in much of southern Australia and Tasmania
- Size: About 2-4.4 pounds
- Diet: Grasses, seeds, and insects
- Colorful feature: The males and females of this species look remarkably similar, and both are colorful. They have chestnut breasts and patches of chestnut and green on the wings. The black head and upper neck are separated from the chestnut breast by a white ring. Females have a white circle around the eye and a white line where the bill meets the face, but males do not have these markings.
These stunning birds are some of Australia’s most memorable animals. In order to preserve their population, they are protected by the Australian state of New South Wales under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974. This law is focused on preserving nature and the cultural history of the state. Currently, the population is stable enough that the IUCN has designated the Australian shelduck as a species of least concern.
38. Surf Scoter
- Latin name: Melanitta perspicillata
- Habitat: Along North America’s Atlantic and Pacific coasts, though they breed in Alaska and northern Canada
- Size: About 2-2.3 pounds
- Diet: Largely marine invertebrates, especially mussels
- Colorful feature: The male surf scoter has a colorful head and bill, though the rest of his body is black. His bill has yellow, white, and red patterning. His face and neck also have a few striking, snow-white markings.
This sea duck dives for food and is an adept hunter of a range of marine invertebrates. The duckling will usually eat smaller freshwater invertebrates that they can catch by dabbling rather than diving. This beautiful bird is not considered to be endangered, but experts have said that its population has decreased by 50-70% in the last 40 years alone.
39. Southern Pochard
- Latin name: Netta erythrophthalma
- Habitat: Bodies of water in Africa from the Cape of Good Hope to Ethiopia; also found in parts of eastern South America
- Size: About 1-2.2 pounds
- Diet: Mostly aquatic plants, although it also will eat small aquatic invertebrates
- Colorful feature: Males and females have a similar pattern of darker upperparts and paler breasts and sides. However, males are black and dark brown, while females are dark brown and light brown. The males have captivating red eyes that stand out against the glossy black head.
The southern pochard is one of the relatively rare species with a fragmented range; it can be found on two continents. It currently is not considered to be endangered, threatened, or near threatened. However, experts believe that the population on both continents is steadily decreasing.
40. Green-Winged Teal
- Latin name: Anas carolinensis
- Habitat: Wetlands in northern North America, though it will usually winter further south
- Size: About 0.3-1.1 pounds
- Diet: Mostly aquatic vegetation, though they will also eat wheat and barley if they can find it
- Colorful feature: Both male and female green-winged teals have a patch of iridescent green on each wing. Males are especially colorful, as they have deep brown heads with a glistening green crescent marking.
This type of dabbling duck is one of the most social species on the list. In fact, it can be seen in flocks of up to 5,000! It looks a lot like the Eurasian teal, and for some time, experts thought the two birds were part of the same species. However, more recent research indicates that they are indeed separate species.
41. Blue-Billed Duck
- Latin name: Oxyura australis
- Habitat: Mostly lakes and dams in temperate parts of Australia
- Size: About 1.9-2.9 pounds
- Diet: Mostly smaller aquatic invertebrates, though it will eat plant matter, too
- Colorful feature: As you may have gathered from the name, this is one of the duck species where males have bright blue bills. In this species, the male’s bill turns very bright in breeding season. For the rest of the year, it is a more subdued slate blue.
This pretty duck species is currently classified as “near threatened” by the IUCN. Experts believe that overgrazing and changes in wetland salinity may be to blame for the declining population. And water is certainly important to this species. It is one of the most aquatic ducks on the list, as it struggles to walk on land.
42. Spectacled Duck
- Latin name: Speculanas specularis
- Habitat: Mostly rivers in or near forests in southern South America
- Size: About 2.5-3.2 pounds
- Diet: Mostly aquatic vegetation, though they sometimes will eat insects
- Colorful feature: These ducks have an intriguing pattern of brown, white, and off-white. But as you can see in the photo, their most colorful feature may well be the purple patch on each wing. They also have bright white patches under each eye, offering a pleasant and unexpected contrast.
The white patches on the dark face give this duck its name, as they look a bit like glasses. However, you may sometimes hear this duck called the “bronze-winged duck.” It’s also sometimes called the “dog duck,” as the female duck’s call sounds like a barking dog.
43. Spectacled Eider
- Latin name: Somateria fischeri
- Habitat: Coastal parts of Alaska and northeastern Siberia
- Size: About 3.5 pounds
- Diet: Mostly mollusks in the ocean; when moving to breeding grounds, it will eat insects, other invertebrates, and various types of plant matter.
- Colorful feature: The male spectacled wider is especially striking. He has bright white upperparts with spectacle-like powder-green coloring on the head. His bill is also bright orange.
Here’s another spectacled duck breed! Both male and female spectacled eiders have “spectacles” or “goggles.” Since the female duck is various shades of brown, the patterning on her head is less conspicuous. This distinctive species is currently classified by the IUCN as being “near threatened.” Experts believe that their shrinking population may be caused by both climate change and loss of habitat.
44. Spotted Whistling Duck
- Latin name: Dendrocygna guttata
- Habitat: Near water in the Philippines, New Guinea, and Indonesia
- Size: About 1.3-1.9 pounds
- Diet: Most aquatic plants, grass seeds, invertebrates, and small fish
- Colorful feature: Though its coloration is made up of neutrals, the spotted whistling duck is still colorful! Its reddish breast is dotted in white while the black wings have feathers laced in gold. The facial feathers form a roan-like pattern, and there is a stripe of black going from the top of the head down the neck.
Wild populations of the spotted whistling duck are stable. But when it’s in captivity, the death rate seems to increase. These birds seem to easily succumb to avian tuberculosis. In one documented instance, there was a 70% death rate in a flock of spotted whistling ducks infected. Experts aren’t totally sure why these birds die so often, but they think it might be due in part to their small size.
- Latin name: Anas platyrhynchos
- Habitat: Subtropical and temperate parts of North Africa, Eurasia, and the Americas, though it has been introduced to a range of other places
- Size: About 1.5-3.5 pounds
- Diet: Mostly various types of plant matter, though they will eat animal matter, too
- Colorful feature: Male mallards are especially colorful, as they have metallic green heads. The white band under the head contrasts sharply with the brown breast. Both sexes also have a band of metallic blue on each wing.
In terms of evolution, the mallard just might be the most important species on the list. It’s the ancestor of most domestic duck species across the globe! The mallard is also highly adaptable, as it is able to live in and around urban areas across the globe.
46. Northern Shoveler
- Latin name: Spatula clypeata
- Habitat: Breeds in northern Europe, the Palearctic, and parts of North America, though it winters in southern Europe, Asia, and parts of Central and South America
- Size: About 1.3 pounds
- Diet: Largely plant matter, though they will also eat aquatic invertebrates
- Colorful feature: Males in breeding season are especially colorful, as they have deep green iridescent heads, white breasts, and brown flanks and rump.
The northern shoveler is an especially beautiful bird in flight, as you can see its multicolored wings and body. It is so common in Britain that it is typically just called a “shoveler” there thanks to its specialized, shovel-shaped bill. The bill makes it significantly easier for the duck to dabble and forage for food.
47. Masked Duck
- Latin name: Nomonyx dominicus
- Habitat: Marshy bodies of water in the tropical parts of the Americas
- Size: About 0.7-0.9 pounds
- Diet: Aquatic plants, insects, and crustaceans
- Colorful feature: The males of this species are a reddish brown color similar to that of the ruddy duck. Their heads are black. But in breeding season, their bills become bright sky blue!
The masked duck has not been studied very extensively, partially because it is an extremely secretive species. But though it is secretive, its population is large and it is not endangered, threatened, or near threatened. Though these birds largely don’t migrate, you might occasionally hear a report of one drifting north into the southern United States.
48. Steller’s Eider
- Latin name: Polysticta stelleri
- Habitat: Breeds along the Russian and Alaskan coastlines and can be found along much of the Arctic coast
- Size: About 1.8 pounds on average
- Diet: Usually various marine invertebrates, though they will also sometimes eat plant matter
- Colorful feature: The males of this species are especially unique-looking; they look as though they’ve been airbrushed! Their white bellies are burnished with the color of a toasted marshmallow. The rest of their bodies are marked by white and black stripes and geometric patterning.
This beautiful, smallish sea duck is the smallest and rarest of the eider species. The IUCN currently classifies it as being vulnerable to extinction. Both the European Union and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have a plan in place to help restore the population and help protect the Steller’s eider from further threats.
49. White-Headed Duck
- Latin name: Oxyura leucocephala
- Habitat: Near water in western and central Asia, Spain, and North Africa
- Size: About 1.3-1.7 pounds
- Diet: Mostly plant matter, though they will also eat some invertebrates
- Colorful feature: As is the case with most types of ducks, the male of this species is more colorful. He has a rich brown body and a white head with a black, mohawk-like stripe. However, his powder blue bill is probably the most colorful part!
This cute duck species is classified as an endangered species. Both hunting and loss of habitat have been contributing factors. But as we mentioned earlier, the interbreeding of the ruddy duck with this species has caused problems. As a result, there has been a focused effort to eradicate the species from certain parts of Europe.
50. American Wigeon
- Latin name: Mareca americana
- Habitat: Breeds in much of northern North America and winters further south in much of the United States
- Size: About 1.1-3 pounds
- Diet: Mostly various types of plant matter both on land and in the water
- Colorful feature: Both the male and female of this species are largely dull brown in color. But the males have a beautifully iridescent green head with a white “cap” on the forehead.
This pretty bird is effectively the American version of the Eurasian wigeon, a similar-looking bird. However, the American wigeon is a bit more colorful!
51. Fulvous Whistling Duck
- Latin name: Dendrocygna bicolor
- Habitat: Found in large parts of the world’s tropical regions
- Size: About 1.6-2.3 pounds
- Diet: Mostly seeds and various types of plant matter
- Colorful feature: This beautiful little duck is mostly a golden buff color. Its wings are mostly black, with each feather having a little golden “cap.”
The fulvous whistling duck is certainly a bright, distinctive sight. But if you’re a rice farmer, it may not be. This species is known for raiding rice paddies for food. It is sometimes shot to protect crops, but it is also hunted for food in some parts of its range.
Nature’s Most Colorful Ducks
Hopefully you’ve discovered some new and exciting duck breeds. And depending on how familiar you are with ducks in general, maybe you saw some old favorites, too. The next time you’re out by a body of water, keep an eye out for some of these colorful feathered friends!