18 Types of Ducks in North Carolina (NC)

Ducks, ducks everywhere! With their diverse array of colors, shapes, and sizes, these feathered friends have captured the hearts of bird lovers everywhere.

But have you ever wondered just how many different types of ducks call North Carolina home?

Get ready to be amazed as we dive into the fascinating world of 18 unique and captivating duck species thriving in the Tar Heel State.

American Black DuckAmerican Black Duck
Ruffled DuckRuffled Duck
American WigeonAmerican Wigeon
Blue-Winged TealBlue-Winged Teal
Goldeneye DuckGoldeneye Duck
Greater ScaupGreater Scaup
Hooded MerganserHooded Merganser
Green Wings TealGreen Wings Teal
Lesser ScaupLesser Scaup
Northern PintailNorthern Pintail
Northern ShovelerNorthern Shoveler
Red-Breasted MerganserRed-Breasted Merganser
Ring-Necked DuckRing-Necked Duck

Types of Ducks in North Carolina (NC)

1. American Black Duck

American Black Duck

The American Black Duck is not completely black and white in appearance; rather, it appears to be a very dark brown in color.

Their heads are lighter in color, and their bills are a sage-greenish yellow.

Males and females seem to be very identical, with the exception that females have a paler body color.

In addition, the bills of females are more greenish and less yellow.

The undersides of the wings are brilliant white, and the speculum is a stunning purplish blue in both the male and female.

The eastern part of North America is the only place in the world where you may find these ducks.

They go south during the winter, spending time in the Midwest, New England, and the Southeast before returning to Canada to breed.

The habitat of the American Black Duck consists of wetlands that are both freshwater and saltwater in nature.

The American Black Duck is a migratory bird that only visits North Carolina during the winter.

They will have left by the time spring rolls around and will come back in the autumn.

2. Ruffled Duck

Ruffled Duck
Credits – Flickr

In the warmer months, male Ruddy Ducks may be distinguished from females by their bright blue bills.

The Ruddy Duck’s beak becomes black in the winter, which is bad news for birdwatchers across North Carolina who are attempting to distinguish between different species of ducks.

A female is easily identifiable by her black bill; hence the blue bill is of little benefit.

Instead, keep an eye out for men with a pronounced white cheek set against a jet-black skull.

Females and young guys have tanner skin and darker hair on top of their heads.

The long, pointed tails of the breeding males are similar to those of the Pintail duck but aren’t as prominent.

The Ruddy Duck travels across western North Carolina on its way to the east coast for the winter.

3. American Wigeon

Credits – ebird

The American Wigeon is a duck that is known for its diminutive size.

The green line that begins just behind the eyes of males and continues all the way to the rear of their heads makes it easier to identify males. 

Males also have a large white crown on top of their heads.

The body of female American wigeons is brown, while their heads are grey.

The bill has a bluish-gray color with a dark tip on both the male and female birds.

These powerful bills are used by American Wigeons to remove submerged vegetation from the bottom of the stream or lake in which they make their homes.

They spend the colder months of the year in the seas off the coast of North Carolina. 

They only pass through the eastern part of the state on their way to their breeding grounds in Canada and the far northwest, thus, the only time you’ll see them there is then.

4. Bufflehead


The peculiar contours of this huge duck’s head led to the coining of the moniker “Bufflehead.”

It is an altered form of the term “buffalo head.”

The fact that the head of the Bufflehead rests atop such a little body is among the reasons that it is so interesting to study.

It’s so fluffy that it reminds me of a buffalo’s head!

The Bufflehead is the North American diving duck that holds the record for being the smallest of its kind.

The bodies of males are white, while their backs are black, and their heads are iridescent purple and green.

It has a big white spot that runs across the rear of its head, which gives the skull the appearance of being segmented.

The look of juvenile men and girls is far less complex.

They have a huge, oval-shaped white band on the cheek that gives them a brownish-gray appearance overall.

Because they are migratory birds, buffleheads spend the winter months throughout a large portion of the United States.

Throughout North Carolina, they may be found in rivers with sluggish currents, ponds and lakes that are shallow, and bays that provide protection and safety.

Because they nest in cavities, they frequently take over the vacated nests of other birds, such as Northern Flickers.

5. Blue-Winged Teal


It’s possible that you’ll begin to recognize a pattern in which the majority of North Carolina’s ducks remain most of the winter in the eastern portion of the state, close to the coast. Because they have quick and easy access to the waterways there.

The Blue-Winged Teal Duck is an example of an animal that satisfies this pattern!

When they are not reproducing, male Blue-Winged Teal Ducks have a dramatically different look than when they are breeding.

During the mating season, the male will have a speckled chest and a white spot near the base of his tail, but for the most part, he will be brown.

His head will be a bluish-gray color, and he will have a white stripe that extends from just over his eye all the way down the front of his face.

The look of females, youngsters, and males who are not mating are quite similar; however, they do not have the dark coloring that summertime males have.

These ducks are an unremarkable brown color, and the only time you can see the blue pattern on their wings is when they’re in flight.

6. Canvasback

Credits – Animals.net

This is one quick-moving duck! It has been shown that canvasback ducks can fly up to 74 miles per hour, which would be 30 miles per hour, speedier than the typical speed of a duck.

A broad neck, a large head, and a long bill are characteristics shared by all Canvasbacks.

The males have a chestnut brown, black, and white coloration, while the females are a light brown coloration.

It is possible to tell a female from a male based on the color of her eyes; females possess black eyes, while males possess red eyes.

Canvasbacks may occasionally engage in brood parasitism, which is when a female deposits her eggs into the nest of another species of bird.

In contrast to Brown-Headed Cowbirds, which often deposit their eggs in the nests of members of an entirely different species of birds.

Female Canvasbacks have been seen to occasionally do so in the nests of many other female Canvasbacks.

In addition to this, if a Ruddy Duck or a Redhead Duck were to place their eggs within their nest, the Canvasback would care for them as if they were her own.

The Canvasback, like several other duck species across North Carolina, is only seen during the winter months. 

Significantly, Canvasbacks never go west of the state’s eastern coastline.

During their annual migration, you will only be able to spot them west of Durham.

7. Gadwall


Because they must be able to go from the water’s surface to its depths without completely immersing themselves, the majority of dabbling ducks spend their winters in waters that are just a few feet deep.

Although Gadwall Ducks are capable of diving a little deeper than some other dabbling ducks, they really aren’t able to dive as far below the surface of the water as sea ducks can.

The beak of a Gadwall Duck has been given the appearance of a square in various descriptions.

The narrow bill and slender neck stand in stark contrast to the blocky skull.

The gadwall is not a very colorful bird.

The males are grey and brown, while the females appear white and brown with a creamy appearance. 

They must be able to be identified by the white spot on their wings, which may be seen even when they are in the water.

The wetlands and coastlines of North Carolina are where gadwalls spend the winter season of the year.

They are quite good at blending in with their surroundings, so if they are hiding among the cattails and aquatic plants that are common in wetland areas, it may be hard to spot them.

They prefer to play the role of pond thieves, which is funny to humans even if it isn’t humorous to other types of ducks.

Another amusing characteristic of gadwalls is that they enjoy stealing food from ponds.

When other species of ducks rise to the surface to feed, gadwalls will take food from them. What can you say about a meal on the house?

8. Goldeneye Duck

Goldeneye Duck

The Goldeneye Duck got its name from its eye color, which is a brilliant golden yellow and can be seen from a considerable distance.

Even while both men and females have these brilliant eyes, the remainder of their traits is sexually dimorphic, which means that they differ in appearance according to gender.

The males possess green plumage that is so dark in color that, when seen from a distance, they seem to be black and white rather than green and white.

Both males and females possess white spots on their wings, whereas females are grey in color with brown heads.

During the winter months, the state of North Carolina is frequented by Goldeneye Ducks all across the state.

They are able to dive to great depths, unlike dabbling ducks, who feel uncomfortable swimming in water that is much deeper.

The Goldeneye can stay submerged for up to one minute at once.

Their natural environment consists of waterways such as deep rivers, big lakes, and other coastal waterways.

Goldeneyes make their homes in the hollow of trees, which may be as high as 40 feet in extreme cases.

Because of this, their young have had to depart the nest when they are only one day old, which is a significant hardship.

The young leave the nest one at a time when their mother calls to them from the ground below the tree where they are sleeping.

9. Greater Scaup

Greater Scaup

The Greater Scaup, which is also known as the Bluebill, has plumage that is a dark green yet seems to be black when seen from a distance.

Males have a bill that is the color of slate, while females possess a bill that is somewhat darker but still has a bluish tint to it.

The bodies of females are a light brown color, while their heads are a darker brown.

During the times of the year when they are not mating, males resemble a Greater Scaup that has been hybridized with a breeding male and a female.

The body of the male that is not used for breeding is grey and brown, and his head is a dark grey or virtually black color.

The Greater Scaup is an exceptionally uncommon duck in North Carolina.

The winter months are the best time to look for them along the waterways along the coast, although they are not permanent residents of the state.

10. Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

The spectacular and disproportionately large crests that Hooded Mergansers have made them very easy to recognize.

The crest of the males has a spectacular white and black pattern, while the crest of the females is a cinnamon hue.

In addition, Hooded Mergansers may be seen living in North Carolina throughout the whole year!

You have the ability to watch Hooded Mergansers throughout the whole year as opposed to just having the chance to observe these magnificent ducks during the wintertime.

These ducks utilize a membrane called a nictitating membrane, which is an additional eyelid that is made of transparent tissue to shield their eyes when they are swimming underwater and to search for invertebrates, crustaceans, and fish on the seafloor.

This membrane functions similarly to a pair of goggles in that it enables one to maintain clear vision while also providing protection.

11. Green Wings Teal

Green-Winged Teal

A Male Teal With Green Wings Ducks are known for their flamboyance.

The rest of the male’s head, which has a dark orangey brown color, is marked by a vivid, shimmering green stripe that runs from his eye to the rear of his head.

The bodies of females are entirely brown, and their wings have a light brown barring pattern.

An iridescent spot of color that is seen on a duck’s secondary wing plumage is called a speculum.

This patch of color is present on both the male and females of the species.

Many of these dabbling ducks spend the winter months in the rivers of North Carolina.

They are the tiniest dabbling ducks that can be found across North America.

They do particularly well in agricultural lands that are often flooded and also in river deltas.

12. Lesser Scaup

Lesser Scaup

Although the Greater Scaup and the Lesser Scaup have similar appearances, there are a few key distinctions that set these two distinct ducks apart from one another.

The most obvious distinction between the two species is that the head of the Greater Scaup is rounded, while the head of the Lesser Scaup is egg-shaped.

When seen from a great distance, this is often difficult to comprehend.

To begin, let’s look at how they’re alike: Males of both the Lesser and Greater Scaup are often misidentified as being white and black, despite the fact that their plumage is really an iridescent greenish or purplish and white.

Although their colors are different, the females of both types exhibit patterns that are quite similar to those of the males.

They possess bodies that are a lighter shade of brown than their heads.

The Lesser Scaup passes the wintertime around the coasts of the United States across warmer water bodies, from the coast of California via the southern United States towards the eastern coast of the United States.

They will spend the winter months in rivers, lakes, and ponds that contain freshwater.

The Greater Scaup, on the other hand, favors saltwater throughout the colder months of the year.

Because they are exclusively found all along the coast of North Carolina, it is quite improbable that you will come across any west of Raleigh.

13. Northern Pintail


The term “Pintail” refers to the slender and pointed tail that the mating males of this species have.

Females, youngsters, and adult males that are not reproducing have a profile that is more typical of the species.

No of the time of year, the speculum of a male will always be greenish, whereas the speculum of a female will always be an iridescent brown.

A mating male’s chest is brilliant white, while the rest of his body, including his neck and the head, is dark brown.

In contrast, females possess a very basic face that is light brown in color and is devoid of any markings.

He has a white streak that goes along his neck and head, whereas the female does not.

To get to North Carolina via Canada, pintails must travel at speeds of up to 49 miles an hour.

Because they only travel at night, you won’t be able to see them flying over the sky during the day.

They spend the winter months in the eastern portion of the state, although during their migration, they might be seen in the western region of the state.

They might well be spotted in the eastern part of the state, mostly during winter.

14. Mallard


Are there another species of duck that is more well-known than the Mallard? The Mallard is among the most well-known breeds of duck on the continent of North America.

Mallards are so popular that they have made their way into home décor, artwork, and perhaps even pendants for jewelry.

The majority of domesticated ducks across North America are derived from Mallards.

This is due to Mallards mated so regularly with other varieties of ducks, which made it feasible for Mallards to become the ancestors of most domesticated ducks.

Since Mallards and Mottled Ducks are interbred so regularly, there is even a species of duck in Florida called a “Muttled Duck” owing to the offspring of these two species.

The heads of male Mallards have a deep, iridescent greenish color.

The bodies of females are cream-colored with dark brown spots.

One other distinguishing feature of the male Mallard duck is a brilliant white ring that is worn around its neck.

These ubiquitous ducks may be located on a variety of continents, such as Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America.

The ducks who spend the winter visiting North Carolina have traveled all the way from Canada to be there.

15. Northern Shoveler


It’s likely that the wide, shovel-shaped beak of a Northern Shoveler will be the first thing you see when you come across one of these birds.

During the breeding season, the males have vivid colors like brilliant white, light blue, metallic green, and iridescent brown in their plumage.

In addition to having a black beak, they possess a blue speculum across their wings.

The wings of juvenile males, non-breeding males, and females are marbled with creamy and dark brown, and there is a very faint touch of blue on the wings of the non-breeding males.

The bill of the female has a striking brilliant orange color.

In addition, females possess a method of guarding their nests that is both intriguing and quite revolting.

Northern shovelers will depart the nest if they are scared and are being attacked by a predator, but not before they have defecated all over their eggs!

They do this with the belief that it may dissuade the potential prey from taking the eggs and devouring them.

Northern Shovelers are found not only throughout North America but also across India, Europe, and Africa.

They are not native to North America.

They like coastal bodies of water, such as lakes, meadows, wetlands, and lagoons, in every one of these areas.

They make use of the dense grass at the water’s edge to construct their nests, which provides them with excellent cover from predators.

Their food consists of aquatic plants, insects, small fish, and crabs. Additionally, they eat aquatic vegetation.

16. Redhead

Redhead Mallard
Credits – Wikipedia

Another kind of duck that is simple to recognize even from a range is the Redhead Duck.

Redhead men have heads that are dark cinnamon brown, and their breasts are black.

This head’s dazzling array of colors allows it to be seen from a great distance.

The females have relatively simple markings, consisting of light brown feathers distributed evenly over their bodies.

Their heads are rounded, and the plumage on their wings is grey.

It is common knowledge that Redhead Ducks travel in very large flocks when they travel.

Once upon a time, there was a flock of more than 60,000 Redhead Ducks!

After spending the summer in the states of the Great Plains and the interior of Canada, Redhead Ducks make their way south to spend the winter around North Carolina.

Outside of woody regions, in places with an abundance of tall grasses for nesting, is where they find the ideal environment to raise their young.

In addition to that, they like water bodies that are rather deep.

17. Red-Breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser

The Red-Breasted Merganser has a remarkably distinctive physical profile.

The majority of the other ducks on this list do not have the long, shaggy plumage that creates a crest around the back of their head as these ducks have.

The heads of females are a light brown color, while the heads of males are a greenish-black color.

The breast of a male has a cinnamon-brown color, and it is distinguished from the head by a strong strip of white that goes around the throat.

Females and immature males do not have the characteristic white band on their backs.

Red-breasted Mergansers exhibit a desire for saltwater over freshwater during the winter months; nevertheless, they are willing to nest and feed in groundwater if that is the only water source accessible to them.

These birds, which have an intriguing appearance, do not remain in North Carolina for an extended period of time.

They spend the winter around the coasts of the United States and Mexico, but their breeding grounds are in Canada.

Their area in Canada includes the whole country.

They are only likely to appear in North Carolina during the few stops throughout their lengthy trip that take place there.

Because they move during the day rather than at night, you have a better chance of seeing some of them if you go during the day.

During the spring, they will only migrate in pairs or in groups that are rather small.

The number of individuals in their migrating groups might reach into the thousands throughout the autumn!

18. Ring-Necked Duck

Ring-Necked Duck

Learning more about the Ring-Necked Duck in the 1800s from preserved specimens, scientists and naturalists awarded the animal its popular English name.

Must have seen the dark gold ring around the duck’s throat and thought, “Perfect!”

This one’s going to be known as the Ring-Necked Duck!

The issue is that it is quite difficult to recognize a living, active Ring-Necked Duck with its copper ring.

For those who aren’t familiar with the species’ history, the name may seem strange.

There is yet another, more obvious ring on this bird; a white circle around its beak.

Other telltale features include a tiny crown and a brow that slopes downward.

In comparison to other diving ducks, Ring-Necked Ducks are more comfortable in relatively shallow waters.

During the wintertime, they are widely distributed over the state of North Carolina, excluding the westernmost regions.


In conclusion, North Carolina is a veritable haven for duck enthusiasts, with a rich and diverse population of these avian wonders.

From the common Mallard to the rare Harlequin duck, the Tar Heel State offers a wealth of opportunities to observe and appreciate these feathered friends.

So grab your binoculars and head out to your nearest wetland, because the world of North Carolina ducks is waiting to be discovered.

Who knows, you might just come across a new favorite species in the process!


Are all ducks migratory birds?

Not all ducks are migratory birds. Some ducks are year-round residents, while others migrate to and from North Carolina depending on the season.

What is the best time of year to see ducks in North Carolina?

The best time of year to see ducks in North Carolina is during the winter months, when many migratory species come to the state to escape the colder northern climates.

Are there any endangered duck species in North Carolina?

Yes, there are several endangered duck species in North Carolina, including the Harlequin duck and the Redhead duck.

Can I hunt ducks in North Carolina?

Yes, duck hunting is a popular activity in North Carolina and is regulated by the state’s wildlife management agencies. Hunting seasons and regulations vary, so it is important to check with the appropriate authorities before hunting.

How can I identify different types of ducks?

You can identify different types of ducks by their unique physical characteristics, such as their coloration, size, shape, and behavior. Paying attention to their calls and songs can also be helpful.

Last Updated on March 22, 2023 by Lily Aldrin

About Lily Aldrin

I am Lily Aldrin. I attended Cornell University, where I obtained my degree to become an Ornithologist so I could pursue my love of these magnificent creatures in and out of their natural habitats.

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