The world has over 120 duck breeds, and amongst these breeds, you’ll find the domestic ones and the wild ones.
Domestic ducks are the breeds kept for eggs, meat, ornamental purposes, feathers, and as pets. Wild ducks, on the other hand, are non-domesticated ducks. In other words, they are not bred domestically for human use.
Except for Muscovy ducks, domestic ducks are all descendants of the wild Mallard duck. In fact, Muscovy ducks and Mallard ducks are the only two wild duck species that have been domesticated.
In this article, we will not be focusing on domestic ducks. Instead, our focus will be on eight wild duck breeds.
American Black Ducks
You’ll find American Black Ducks in northeastern America in freshwater wetlands such as wooded swamps and beaver ponds.
You may also find them in salty wetlands, especially during winter. They also spend time in flooded timber, river habitats, and agricultural landscapes.
American Black Ducks are omnivores. While they mostly eat plants, you may also find them eating insects, fish, mollusks, and crustaceans. The plant matter they eat include seeds, tubers, roots, stems, and leaves.
During the nesting season, American Black Ducks forage with their partners or alone. Outside of nesting season, they either search for food alone or in small groups.
American Black Ducks have dark brown plumage with light-brown heads. The males have yellow beaks, while the females have dull olive beaks.
When in flight, the white underwings of the males are exposed. For the females, flying reveals bright-blue secondary wings bordered by black.
You’ll find mallard ducks in virtually any type of wetland habitat: bogs, ponds, beaver ponds, marshes, farms, city parks, and much more.
Mallard ducks are omnivores and dabblers. They eat a wide variety of plant and animal matter. To an extent, their feeding habit varies with the seasons.
They tend to eat more insect larvae, snails, crustaceans, earthworms, and other animal matter during breeding season. While migrating, they focus more on plant matter, consuming seeds and grains.
If you come across Mallard ducks in parks, you’ll notice that they are usually willing to eat what people at the park offer them.
Male Mallards have a green-colored head that easily stands out and a yellow bill. They have grey plumage with a black, curled tail.
The females are mottled all over with beige and dark brown feathers, and dark orange bills.
African Black Duck
The African Black Duck and the American Black Ducks belong to the same genus in the binomial classification.
African Black Ducks have dark-brown plumage with white spots, orange legs, and black bills. You’ll commonly find these ducks in fast-flowing rivers with sufficient wood around. You may also find them around ponds.
While the African Black Ducks resemble the Yellow-billed duck, there are a few differences. African Black Ducks have shorter necks, darker plumage, and dark bills.
African Black Ducks are omnivorous: they eat insect larvae, amphibian larvae, snail, crustaceans, and even fish. They also eat seaweed, grains, seeds, and fruits.
Female Chestnut Teals have plain grey plumage with a rounded crown. The males, on the other hand, have less subtle plumage: a metallic-green head, dark-brown wings, and chestnut flanks.
When in flight, Chestnut Teals reveal a white patch in their secondary wings. This feature differentiates them from the Pacific Black Ducks, which have green or purple patches instead.
Chestnut Teals are found around inland wetlands. However, they have strongholds in coastal regions. They are one of the few Australian ducks that can withstand saline water bodies.
Look for Chestnut Teals in areas such as inlets, mudflats, estuaries, and coastal lagoons.
Birds of this breed are dabbling feeders and are also omnivorous. They eat seeds, insects, grains, mollusks, and a variety of plant/animal matter.
The Eurasian Wigeons are typically found around ponds and lakes. Although they are sporadically seen in North America every year, they have not been found breeding on that continent. But this does not rule out the possibility.
Eurasian Wigeons are herbivores. They feed on algae, leaves, stems, root, tubers, seeds, grains, and nuts.
Female Eurasian Wigeons have rounded heads with short bills colored blue-grey. Their plumage is dark-brown, and when they are in flight, they reveal their white belly.
Adult males of this breed have chestnut-colored heads with beige crowns. Their bills are light blue, and most of their plumage is grey, except for the white patch in their wings.
Both male and female Eurasian Wigeons have a black tip at the edge of their bill.
These birds are commonly found in areas from Venezuela to southern Ecuador. Andean Teals are usually in lakes and wetlands in elevated areas. They are quite small and not as common as the Yellow-billed Teal.
Unlike the other duck breeds we have seen so far, male and female Andean Teals are quite similar. Both sexes have grey-brown plumage and vermiculate heads.
Andean Teals eat both plant and animal matter. They are dabblers, but once in a while, they dip their heads to fetch food.
During breeding time, Andean Teals eat more animal matter. You’ll find them eating things like mollusks, earthworms, and crustaceans.
When winter comes, their diet switches to grains. You’ll find them eating grass, seeds, and aquatic plants during this season.
The name already says enough about the color of their bills – Yellow-billed ducks have yellow bills. They also have dark-brown plumage with some white scalloping. Although females and males of this breed are similar, the females are smaller. The color of their bill and plumage are also duller.
These birds are commonly seen around brackish wetlands and freshwater. You’ll find them near coastal lagoons, marshes, lakes, and streams.
Yellow-billed ducks are widespread in southern and eastern African regions. They feed on invertebrates and plant matter. They will eat seeds, fruits, leaves, grains, aquatic insects, mollusks, and crustaceans.
Flying Steamer-Ducks are one of the larger species. They are widespread in Argentina, and you’ll commonly see them around coastal lakes and seas.
They might be called the Flying Steamer-Ducks, but they rarely fly. You are more likely to see these birds paddling like an old steamer boat through the water. Hence, the Steamer-Duck tag.
Adult Flying Steamer-Ducks have dull or brown-grey plumage. However, males usually have orange bills, while females have green ones.
Flying Steamer-Ducks feed on both plant and animal matter.
Sometimes, both Flying and Flightless Steamer-Ducks occur together. When they do, you may notice the flightless variants are much more watchful than the flying ones.