How Many Species Of Ducks Are There?

There are approximately 130 different species of ducks found worldwide. Belonging to the Anatidae family, which also includes geese and swans, ducks exhibit a wide array of features, habitats, and behaviors. Ducks can be broadly categorized into diving ducks, dabbling ducks, and sea ducks, each displaying unique characteristics.

Diversity of Duck Species

Duck species exhibit remarkable diversity worldwide, showcasing a wide range of appearances, behaviors, and habitats. To better understand their differences, it is helpful to look at the broad classifications and the environments they call home:

  • Classifications: Ducks can be classified into three common groups – diving ducks, dabbling ducks, and sea ducks. Each group exhibits distinct habits and characteristics, such as how they forage for food, their swimming capabilities, and preferred habitats.
  • Habitats: Ducks can be found in diverse environments, from freshwater lakes and ponds to marshes and coastal areas. Dabbling ducks are commonly seen in a variety of habitats, making them rather adaptable. Diving ducks like the Common Goldeneye are usually found in shallow waters, where they can dive in search of food. Sea ducks, including the Harlequin duck, are adapted to coastal waters and can dive deep to catch prey in rough conditions.

Duck Types and Examples

Ducks encompass a wide range of fascinating species, each with its own distinct behaviors and characteristics. Here are some of the common groups of ducks and examples within each group:

Dabbling Ducks

Often found near the surface of the water, prefer to feed on land or by dipping their bills into the water. They rarely dive completely underwater. Examples of dabbling ducks include:

  • Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos): Known for their green heads and brown bodies, they are widespread and easily recognizable.
  • American Wigeon (Anas americana): American wigeons have a unique appearance with a green patch on their head, a white crown, and a grayish body with black and white markings.
  • Northern Pintail  (Anas acuta): Elegant long-necked ducks with slender bodies, featuring a pointed tail.

Diving Ducks

As the name suggests, these ducks dive deep underwater to forage for food, displaying strong swimming abilities:

  • Canvasback (Aythya valisineria): Canvasbacks have a sloping profile and a distinctive long, narrow bill. They breed in North America and prefer large lakes and marshes.
  • Redhead (Aythya americana): Medium-sized diving ducks with a round head and a reddish-brown body, which are found in North America, nesting in marshes and prairie potholes.
  • Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula): Recognizable by their striking markings, these ducks can dive up to 20 feet underwater to catch fish.
  • Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris): A small diving duck with a dark body, black head, a white ring around their bill, and a distinctive white crescent on their sides, breeding in North America and favoring freshwater lakes and ponds.

Sea Ducks

These ducks are adapted to marine environments and exhibit incredible diving prowess. Some types of sea ducks are:

  • Harlequin Duck  (Histrionicus histrionicus): Recognized by their vivid plumage, they are found in rough coastal waters.
  • Common Eider (Somateria mollissima): The largest ducks in the Northern Hemisphere, they are well known for their warm, downy feathers.


The world of duck species is captivating and diverse. From the diving prowess of the Common Goldeneye to the enchanting adaptability of sea ducks like Harlequin ducks, these fascinating creatures never cease to amaze. By understanding these feathered fellows, we gain a deeper appreciation for the remarkable resilience and beauty found in wildlife.