All Illinois Ducks with Pictures

Have you ever seen a duck in Illinois? It may surprise you to learn that there are several species of ducks who call the state their home. From the Great Lakes region to Chicago, these birds can be found throughout Illinois and bring beauty and joy to many people’s lives. Whether they’re swimming on lakes or waddling around parks, it’s clear that Ducks have become an important part of this Midwestern landscape.

For those who want to get closer to nature, observing ducks is a great way to do so. Not only are they fascinating creatures but watching them go about their day-to-day activities brings us closer to understanding how we fit into our environment. Having knowledge of native bird species also makes us more aware of conservation efforts in our area and helps us appreciate why certain habitats must remain protected for wildlife.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the most common duck species found in Illinois and discuss what makes them unique from other birds. We will look at where they live, what diet sustains them, as well as any problems caused by humans which could potentially threaten their populations. So if you’re looking for ways to connect with nature through animals in your own backyard, then read on!

Common Merganser Duck

Common Merganser
Common Merganser duck

The natural beauty of the Common Merganser duck is breathtaking. These ducks sport a glossy black head that transitions into white along its neck and chest, with dark brown feathers across their backs. Its striking contrast in coloration makes it easy to identify among other species like the Hooded Merganser or wood duck. They have long, slender bodies perfect for diving underwater and swimming with agility. With wings outstretched they look almost majestic as they soar through the sky, or when landing gracefully on water’s surface.

Common Merganser range map

Common Mergansers are often seen congregating in groups near rivers, streams, and ponds throughout Illinois. Their presence here does not just add to the aesthetic appeal but also serves an important purpose – these birds feed largely on fish which helps maintain healthy aquatic ecosystems by controlling populations of certain prey species.

Wood Ducks

Wood Duck
Wood Duck

Moving on from the common merganser, let’s talk about wood ducks. These birds are unmistakable with their dark green head and bright multicolored plumage around the neck. Wood ducks are a popular choice among waterfowl hunters because of this unique beauty and their willingness to take bait. Male wood ducks also have an intricate set of feathers that can be seen during breeding season in which they will display for potential mates.

The males of another species called ruddy ducks make themselves even more distinguishable from other duck species by having two large white wing patches when they are in flight. Ruddy ducks prefer shallow wetlands where they can often be found bobbing up and down in the water while feeding on small aquatic invertebrates or seeds. They usually mate between April and May, later than most other duck species, so it is important to look out for them at different times throughout the year if you’re interested in birdwatching. Transitioning next into northern shovelers – these birds have long narrow bills perfect for skimming food off the surface of the water…

Northern Shovelers

Northern Shoveler
Northern Shoveler

Northern Shovelers are a sight to behold. They have a beautiful white patch on their heads that contrasts with the black chest and wings of these ducks. This species is rather large in size, often reaching up to 18 inches long. Northern shoveler ducks inhabit freshwater marshes, ponds, and lakes throughout Illinois during migration season. These birds also make an appearance during breeding season when they can be seen foraging for food such as aquatic insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and other small invertebrates along muddy shorelines or flooded wetlands–a delightful show of grace!

Northern Shoveler range map

Despite the fact that northern shovelers may not seem very common in some parts of Illinois due to habitat loss caused by urbanization and agricultural practices, populations remain relatively healthy across much of the state. As we move forward into our study of American Wigeon Ducks, it’s important to remember how lucky we are to still have so many diverse waterfowl species here in this wonderful state!

American Wigeon Duck

American Wigeon
American Wigeon duck

The American Wigeon is a common duck found in many areas of Illinois, including wetlands and grasslands. It has distinctive plumage; its head and neck are gray with white stripes on the sides and it has a white patch surrounding its eyes. Its back is black-brown, as well as its tail feathers which have wide white tips. Additionally, this species boasts an eye-catching yellow bill.

This aquatic bird can be easily identified by:

  • A large white patch around their eyes
  • Gray heads and necks striped with white
  • Bright yellow bills
American Wigeon range map

It is important to note that these ducks may form flocks during migration season while they are looking for food sources such as tubers, seeds, mollusks, crustaceans, insects, spiders and aquatic vegetation. As winter approaches, they usually migrate southward for warmer climates. With this overview of the American Wigeon Duck complete, let’s move onto the next type of waterfowl native to Illinois–the Canvasback Duck.

Canvasback Duck


The American Wigeon duck is one of the most common waterfowl in North America, however Canvasback ducks are another species that can be found here. These birds have a distinctive look with their heads appearing slightly rounded and their red eyes standing out against its dark head and neck. The body has a light brown back with white underparts, as well as having a white band going from its bill to the nape of its neck.

FeatureCanvasback Duck
BodyLight Brown
Neck BandingWhite
Canvasback range map

These ducks breed near inland wetlands during spring migration, where they build nests on the ground or on floating vegetation mats. They feed by diving into the water for aquatic plants such as wild celery, sago pondweed and coontail. During winter months they will migrate south to coastal areas along both coasts of North America, taking refuge in freshwater marshes or sheltered bays offshore.

Overall, Canvasback ducks are an interesting species to observe due to their unique coloring and distinct features like their red eyes and white neckbanding. With these characteristics in mind, we move onto discussing blue winged teal ducks which possess many similar traits yet also feature some differences too.

Blue Winged Teal Duck

Blue-winged Teal
Blue-winged Teal

The blue winged teal is a species of dabbling duck found in Illinois. It has a dark brown head with a gray body, and its wings have varying amounts of blue coloration as well. The male’s bill is usually yellow-green or olive; the female’s bill tends to be more of a pale orange color. During breeding season, males will also display white stripes on their faces.

Blue-winged Teal range map

Blue winged teals are known for being very active during flight. They migrate southwards soon after breeding season ends and congregate along rivers that provide food sources throughout winter months. In the springtime, they can be seen gathering in large numbers near wetlands before heading back north again to breed.

American Black Ducks

American Black Duck
American Black Duck

The American Black Duck is a species of duck native to North America. It is closely related to the mallard and has similar black feathers, though it has darker plumage overall than its cousin. Male American Black Ducks have bills that are yellow-orange in color with a dark line running along the top. The female’s bill is greyish-brown with some orange on the sides near the tip.

American Black Duck range map

Males also feature chestnut brown wings, while females show more muted shades of grey and brown. Their necks are generally speckled, adding an interesting contrast to their otherwise solid colored bodies. Both sexes can be distinguished from other ducks by their large size and long legs for wading in shallow waters. By comparison, male mallards typically have green heads and white collars around their necks.

Mallard Duck

Mallard duck

The Mallard Duck is the most common duck found in Illinois. It is easily recognizable by its colorful plumage, with a deep green head and neck for the male mallard and a brownish-grey head for the female. The two sexes also differ in size; males are usually larger than females. Their diet consists of grains, insects, aquatic vegetation, small rodents and amphibians. They often inhabit wetlands or shallow ponds, where they search for food such as seeds or invertebrates.

Mallards will form large groups during migration season to take advantage of favorable winds that can help them cover long distances more quickly and efficiently. During this time they may fly up to 50 miles per day! Some may even migrate across several states before reaching their wintering grounds.

Mallard range map

These ducks are quite adaptable and have been known to utilize urban areas such as parks, golf courses and other grassy areas near bodies of water when natural habitat becomes scarce. This has allowed them to thrive despite human development encroaching on their typical habitats. With this transition into new environments comes an increased risk of predation from non-native predators like cats, raccoons and foxes which can threaten populations if not managed properly.

As we move onto discussing the Northern Pintail next, it’s important to remember how adaptable these birds are – making sure our environment remains hospitable enough for both native species as well as adapted ones alike is essential for promoting healthy ecosystems.

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail
Northern Pintail

The Northern Pintail is an iconic duck of the Illinois region. It stands out in a crowd with its long, pointed tail and pale gray body. This species can often be found flocking alongside female mallards, as they both share a similar habitat; ponds, marshes, and wetlands. The males are especially striking due to their distinct green head that contrasts against the white neck ring.

Northern Pintail range map

These birds feed mainly on aquatic vegetation such as grasses and seeds from shoreline plants. They have also been known to snack on insects during certain times of year when bugs are plentiful. While they may seem small in size, these ducks can fly great distances at speeds up to 55 miles per hour! Their migratory patterns typically take them south for the winter months where temperatures are milder than what’s experienced here in Illinois.

To start off your next section smoothly, let’s venture into the fascinating world of green winged teal ducks!

Green Winged Teal Duck

Green-winged Teal (Eurasian)
Green Winged Teal Duck

The Green Winged Teal is a common waterfowl in Illinois. This duck can be identified by its bright green shoulder patches, white stripes on the side of their head and chestnut brown body. They breed from May to August during the breeding season. The males will usually court several females at once with elaborate displays of swimming and calling.

Green-winged Teal (Eurasian) range map

During this time, female Green Winged Teals form small flocks which may also contain Northern Pintails or other ducks. Both sexes molt into an eclipse plumage after the breeding season where they lose most of their colors until they begin to grow new feathers for winter. During that time, they are very difficult to identify unless you have seen them before in their full display. By late fall, they migrate southward towards warmer climates as temperatures drop in Illinois.

Bufflehead Duck

Bufflehead duck
Bufflehead Duck

The bufflehead duck is a small species of dabbling ducks, weighing only about twelve ounces. These birds are often seen in flocks and have an interesting black-and-white pattern on their head and neck. The male buffleheads have a white back, brown chest, and glossy greenish or purplish head with a distinctive “buffle” shape which gives the bird its name. Females can be identified by their grayish body coloration that has many fine light bars on the back, aiding in camouflage while nesting.

Bufflehead ducks nest primarily in tree cavities near water, preferring to use those abandoned by woodpeckers as they offer more protection from predators than open nests built into mounds of vegetation. They also produce two broods per year during April through August, laying six to ten eggs each time before incubating them for 26–28 days. This shows how these agile little birds are able to make use of limited resources to raise multiple generations of offspring within one season.

Bufflehead duck range map

Due to their ability to adapt quickly to changes in climate and habitat loss due to human activities, bufflehead ducks are currently listed as Least Concern according to IUCN Red List criteria

Common Goldeneye Duck

Common Goldeneye
Common Goldeneye

The Common Goldeneye Duck is native to the waters of Illinois. It has a distinctive appearance, with its red-brown heads and white crowns. Its bill is dark in color, which helps identify it from other duck species found in the area. The Common Goldeneye can be seen during both winter and summer months along the lakeshores of Illinois.

Males are larger than females, typically weighing anywhere between two and three pounds. During breeding season they will display a colorful plume on their head that adds to their impressive aesthetic. They feed heavily on aquatic insects as well as crustaceans such as crayfish.

Common Goldeneye range map

From afar, these ducks appear almost black but up close you can see the richness of their colors and patterns come alive. Moving forward into the next section about Ruddy Ducks we will explore another beloved duck species commonly sighted in Illinois wetlands.

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Duck
Ruddy Duck

The Ruddy Duck is a small duck native to Illinois. It has distinctive breeding plumage, consisting of a rich chestnut body with a white face and bill. In the winter months, it can be identified by its gray head and neck and black breast patch. This species nests in freshwater marshes throughout the state during spring.

Ruddy Ducks feed on aquatic insects, mollusks, crustaceans, fish eggs, tubers, seeds and algae which they obtain from shallow water or mudflats. To attract mates during mating season, males display an upright posture along with their bright feathers as part of courtship rituals. The female builds her nest near lakes or ponds out of grasses, reeds and other vegetation. With this behavior being exclusive to the species, these ducks are considered unique within Illinois’ avian fauna.
Moving forward, let us discuss ring-necked ducks in detail.

Ring Necked Ducks

Ring-necked Duck
Ring Necked Duck

Ring Necked Ducks are found throughout Illinois. These ducks have a distinctive dark green head, white ring around the neck and yellow eyes. The Ring Necked Duck is usually seen in large flocks during migration along with other species such as the Northern Shoveler. They inhabit shallow freshwater ponds or marshes and prefer to feed off of aquatic vegetation including algae and duckweed. When frightened, they will dive underwater for protection from predators.

The nesting habitats of Ring Necked Ducks consist of wetlands near open water areas where they can hide among tall grasses and shrubs that provide shelter and safety when needed. They also tend to nest close to other birds like herons, ibis, and egrets which help them stay safe while incubating their eggs. This species has adapted well to its environment by learning how to use nearby plants for protection while raising their young.

Ring-necked Duck range map

In addition to being good parents, Ring Necked Ducks are excellent swimmers and divers capable of quickly escaping danger if necessary. They live in various parts of North America ranging from Canada all the way down south into Mexico with some migrating further south for winter seasons. For these reasons, it’s not uncommon for these ducks to be spotted in large groups throughout Illinois during migration season each year. With proper conservation efforts this species should continue thriving within our state for many years to come. As we move on, let’s take a look at the lesser scaup duck next.

Lesser Scaup Duck

Lesser Scaup
Lesser Scaup

In comparison to the majestic Ring Necked Ducks, the Lesser Scaup Duck is an even brighter spark of beauty. These ducks are like a shining light that illuminates any pond they grace with their presence. They have vibrant colors that make them stand out in a crowd and capture the attention of anyone who passes by. Their wingspan reaches up to 24 inches, and they can weigh up to two pounds, making them one of the largest duck species around!

Lesser Scaups prefer small ponds filled with plenty of small invertebrates such as insects and crustaceans for them to feed on. When winter rolls around these birds migrate south but will often stop at larger lakes or rivers along their journey. During this time they form large flocks which can be seen flying high in the sky. It’s truly a beautiful sight watching thousands upon thousands of these magnificent creatures take flight together!

Lesser Scaup range map

The lesser scaup has been known to breed successfully in Illinois, though due to urban sprawl it has become more difficult for them to find suitable habitat here. Conservation efforts should be made so that we can help ensure the continued survival of this amazing bird.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Best Time Of Year To Observe Illinois Ducks?

When thinking about the best time of year to observe ducks, there are several factors that need to be taken into consideration. First is the climate, as different regions will have distinct temperatures and weather patterns; this affects which species of duck can be seen in a particular area. Additionally, it’s important to look at when migratory birds arrive and depart from an area. This information provides insight into where and when you might find certain types of ducks throughout the year.

When focusing specifically on Illinois Ducks, springtime is generally considered to be the best season for observation. During this period, many waterfowl migrate northward and stop in Illinois for food and shelter before continuing their journey. As a result, more than 100 species of ducks can be found within the state during this season; among them include common mallard ducks, wood ducks and hooded mergansers. Furthermore, various wetlands around Illinois provide excellent habitats for these birds making it easy to spot them while out birdwatching or just enjoying nature’s beauty.

Are Illinois Ducks Migratory?

If you’ve been wondering if Illinois ducks are migratory, the answer is yes! These birds make regular journeys to and from their summer and winter habitats. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Migrating helps them find food more easily.
  2. It keeps populations of different species separate so they don’t compete for resources in one area.
  3. Migration allows them to escape harsh weather conditions or predators that could threaten their survival.

Migration can be an incredible feat of navigation, requiring birds to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles over long distances – usually without stopping along the way! There’s something special about watching these creatures take flight with such determination, knowing where they’re headed despite being so small compared to the sky around them. As much as we may not understand exactly how they do it, we marvel at their feats nonetheless and appreciate all the beauty nature has to offer us through these remarkable animals.

What Type Of Habitat Do Illinois Ducks Prefer?

Most ducks are migratory, meaning they migrate between different climates and habitats in order to find the right food and living conditions. Ducks that live in Illinois have similar needs, so it’s important to understand what type of environment they prefer. This can help us better support them as well as other wetland species that rely on their presence.

When looking at the habitat preferences for Illinois ducks, there are a few key components to consider:

  • Accessibility – Ducks need access to water sources like ponds or rivers where they can feed and swim.
  • Vegetation – Dense vegetation provides shelter from predators and also offers insects and seeds for sustenance.
  • Open Spaces – Open areas near wetlands provide space for courtship displays, nesting sites, and protection from aerial threats.

In addition to these basic elements, Illinois is home to many duck species that require specialized environments such as marshes with cattails or cypress swamps with bald cypress trees. It’s important to keep this diversity in mind when designing landscapes or managing existing ecosystems since each species has its own unique requirements. With careful management, we can ensure our local duck populations remain healthy and thriving into the future.

Do Illinois Ducks Have Any Predators?

When it comes to predators, many animals need to be aware of potential threats. Ducks are no exception; they too have a variety of hazards that can put their lives in danger. But what about Illinois ducks? Do they face any particular predators?

Understanding the habitats and ecosystems where these birds live is essential in knowing what kind of dangers they may encounter. In general, ducks tend to inhabit areas with plenty of water sources such as streams, ponds and lakes. They also prefer wetland areas near wooded forests for protection from enemies. As for Illinois ducks, there are several different predator species that could potentially threaten them. Coyotes, foxes, hawks, owls and even eagles all prey on duck eggs or adult birds throughout the state’s varied landscapes. Additionally, some aquatic mammals like otters may also hunt down smaller waterfowl if given the opportunity.

Fortunately, ducks have developed various strategies over time to help reduce the risk posed by these creatures – including group living habits, effective escape methods and loud vocalizations which act as warnings against danger nearby. By taking precautionary measures such as hiding while nesting or traveling in flocks during migration season, Illinois ducks can avoid becoming victims of predation more often than not.

What Is The Population Size Of Illinois Ducks?

The population size of any species is an important indicator when determining the health and sustainability of its existence. But what mysterious forces are at work in the lives of Illinois ducks? This question has been asked by many bird enthusiasts, biologists, and conservationists alike.

As it turns out, there isn’t a single answer to this query. Despite being one of the most popular waterfowls across North America, the exact population size of Illinois ducks remains elusive due to their migratory behavior. As these birds travel between different habitats for breeding or wintering purposes, their numbers can be difficult to pinpoint with accuracy. However, surveys conducted by various organizations have estimated that anywhere between 8-10 million individuals exist throughout 2020-2021 season alone!

By examining this data alongside other factors such as reproductive success rates and habitat availability, we can gain valuable insights into how Illinois ducks live their lives – from courtship rituals to raising young ones – and better protect them from threats like predation or human interference.


The irony of the Illinois duck is that it can be seen almost year-round, despite its migratory pattern. In fact, even in winter months when most ducks fly south for warmth and food, these resilient birds remain in their native state. This makes them a popular sight among birdwatchers who flock to view them during this time of year.

What’s more interesting is that Illinois ducks prefer an aquatic habitat such as rivers and lakes, which provides plenty of food sources necessary for survival. Despite their small population size and occasional predators like foxes or raccoons, they continue to thrive and multiply throughout the region.

It truly is amazing how Illinois ducks have adapted to their environment over the years and are still able to survive despite all odds against them. Their ability to endure harsh weather conditions while maintaining a healthy population brings joy to many nature lovers in the area. It just goes to show that with perseverance comes success!