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Waterfowl are missionaries of the air.  ~ Jack Miner

  • Mallard

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    The mallard is one of the most recognized of all ducks. Its emerald green head and bright yellow bill also make it very easy to identify in the field. Mallards have one of the most extensive breeding ranges of any duck in North America with the highest densities occur in the prairie pothole region of Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and North Dakota. Mallards are found in a variety of habitats, including dry agricultural fields, shallow marshes and oak-dominated forested wetlands. This species likes calm, shallow bodies of water where they feed on invertebrates, acorns and seeds and tubers of aquatic plants.

  • Green-winged Teal

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    Green-winged teal are the smallest of our North American ducks. Male green-winged teal have a chestnut head with an iridescent green to purple patch extending from the eyes to the nape of the neck. The chest is pinkish-brown with black speckles, and the back, sides and flanks are vermiculated gray, separated from the chest by a white bar. The wing coverts are brownish-gray with a green speculum. The bill is dark slate and the legs and feet are dark gray. They prefer small, shallow permanent ponds near boreal forests that boast an abundance of emergent vegetation, but also nest in prairie pothole country or in areas with dense emergent vegetation. Green-winged teal feed on seeds of sedges, smartweeds, pondweeds, grasses, aquatic insects, mollusks, crustaceans and tadpoles found while foraging in and adjacent to mudflats or while dabbling in shallow water.

  • Canada Goose

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    Canada geese are another well-known species of waterfowl in North America. They are big birds with long necks and large bodies. Males and females look similar with black head, white cheek patches, black necks, and brown back and chests. Canada Geese are very adaptable to various habitats and can feed by dabbling in the water, grazing in fields, or even large lawns. They are often seen in flight moving in flocks forming the “V” pattern. Canada geese anywhere near lakes, rivers, ponds, or other small or large bodies of water, and in yards, park lawns, and farm fields.

  • Lesser Scaup

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    Like mallards, lesser scaup have one of the most extensive breeding ranges of North American ducks. Male lesser scaup have a glossy black head with a purple cast. The neck, breast and upper mantle are glossy black. Vermiculations on the sides and flanks are olive brown and contrast with the white chest and belly. The back is light gray with broad heavy vermiculations of sooty black. Scaup prefer deeper, more permanent wetland habitats with emergent vegetation, such as bulrushes, since they often harbor abundant populations of aquatic insect larvae. Lesser scaup dive to feed on seeds of pondweeds, wigeon grass, wild rice, sedges and bulrushes. They also feed on crustaceans, mollusks, aquatic insects and small fish.

  • Ring-necked Duck

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    Although male ring-necked ducks superficially resemble lesser scaup, their peaked, angular head profile, distinctive white bill markings and uniformly dark upper wings distinguish them. The "ringneck" name is derived from a faint brownish ring around the base of the neck, which is visible only upon close inspection. They prefer sedge-meadow marshes, swamps and bogs surrounded by woody vegetation. In winter, ring-necked ducks use a variety of habitats, such as fresh and brackish marshes, shallow lakes, estuarine bays and coastal lagoons. Ring-necked ducks dive in shallow water to feed on the tubers, seeds and leaves of moist-soil and aquatic plants (pondweeds, coontail, water milfoil, hydrilla, sedges, grasses, wild rice, etc.). They also eat aquatic insects, snails and clams.

  • Wood Duck

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    This species is considered one of the most stunningly beautiful of all waterfowl. Male wood ducks have a crested head that is iridescent green and purple with a white stripe leading from the eye to the end of the crest, and another narrower white stripe from the base of the bill to the tip of the crest. The throat is white and the chest is burgundy with white flecks, gradually grading into a white belly. The wood duck received such a name because it prefers to live in riparian habitats, freshwater marshes, and wooded swamps, such as bottomland hardwood forest like the habitat at Clarks River NWR. In this habitat they nest in cavities of trees or in nest boxes put up for them. Wood ducks breed across most of the central and eastern United States, southeastern Canada and along the Pacific coast from California to British Columbia. However, the highest breeding densities occur in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (i.e., Clarks River). 


    The history of this duck is a great one for conservation. Their population numbers dropped dangerously low in the 19th century due to the loss of bottomland hardwood forest and overharvesting. The recovery of the species is attributed to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, artificial nesting boxes, and recovery of habitat.

Page Photo Credits — Teal Flock - aeller/usfws, Mallard Lift Off - cferrell/usfws, Canada Goose - jmiller/usfws, Lesser Scaup - chearn/usfws, Ring-necked Duck - tmunson/usfws, Green-winged Teal - usfws, Wood Duck Pair - usfws
Last Updated: Nov 26, 2013
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