Being the waterfowl species’ one of the most prominent destinations for wintering across the Southern region, Texas encompasses a wide variety of ducks. Swarms of ducks in marshes, coastal bays, and prairies have been a normal sight during the winter and fall season for as long as we can remember.
Over time, however, the distribution of these creatures across the terrain has changed. Also, there has been a transition in the number of ducks wintering in the state with specific species.
Ducks essentially belong to the Anatidae family. This article will help you explore all the different kinds of duck species that have been documented in Texas over the past decade.
While the first 10 on our list are considered year-round residents, the latter types of ducks are not-so-commonly found visitors that occasionally spend their time in the state.
Did you know? Reports suggest that Texas’ coastal marshes and the rice fields nearby offer shelter to around 45% of the ducks amidst the Central Flyway!
10 Common Duck Species in Texas
The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck is a high-spirited gooselike creature characterized by its unique, long-legged silhouette and a vibrant pink bill. It bears a chestnut body with a grey-colored face and blackish belly.
These gaudy birds are inhabited all across Louisana and Texas in noisy flocks. Usually, you can locate them in capacious fields and grasslands while they forage on seeds and spot them lounging on golf course ponds.
This species of duck has a high-pitched whistle, which makes distinguishing them a breeze. During its flight, it exhibits a big white patch towards its upper wings and often tilts its head downwards. Formerly known as tree-ducks (they mostly perch in trees and wooden logs over the water surface), the Black-bellied Whistling-Duck resembles more swans and geese due to its lack of sexual dimorphism.
Common to the Southern parts of the U.S., this duck occurs in several Southern states and is increasingly expanding every day. It is known to feed nocturnally. So, always be on the lookout for large flocks of these boisterous birds around sunset. These ducks rest in cavities and readily take shelter in nest boxes.
The Fulvous Whistling-Duck is a large-sized, oddly proportioned bird with a pair of long legs, an elongated neck, and a prolonged bill. The body of this duck blends into a rich caramel-brown and blackish shade.
One side of its neck bears slender white stippling. It fashions a black tail with white-colored under-tail, while its bill and legs are greyish. On the other hand, females are distinguished from the males by a black hue on the crown.
This species of ducks are predominantly spotted in warm freshwater marshes throughout the United States, especially Texas.
Being one of the most widespread waterfowl across the world, the Fulvous Whistling-Duck is found quite abundantly in Texas, especially along the coast.
Typically, these birds are summer residents and start appearing around mid-February and May. This gangly duck mainly forages food, seeks an ideal water depth from rice fields, and is barely seen afar from there. Since it often roosts in trees, the Fulvous duck was once known as a tree-duck.
Flocks of these ducks are often heard soaring over feeding spots during dusk and dawn. This type of waterfowl occasionally dives into deep water. They are extremely vocal and call out with their descending whistles with a stuttered start. While females sound relatively squeakier, males enunciate a wheezier voice.
One of the most peculiar and warty-faced dabblers out there, the Muscovy Duck, is among the world’s oldest domesticated waterfowl species. It gets its name from the infamous Muscovy Company that transported these birds to France and England.
Although the best time to witness this duck ranges from April to November, Texas residents claim to see them quite often. This duck carries a glossy black body with white patches on its wings. Essentially, it is a forest dweller that inhabits tree cavities. Its fairly long bill tilts smoothly towards the forehead.
An interesting fact to know about this duck is that the males usually mate with ducks of other species, thereby producing hybrid, sterile offspring.
Although males constitute the largest duck species throughout North America, female Muscovy Ducks are only half their size. These wary birds dabble in depthless wetlands. Other times, you can find the domesticated ones at parks and gardens where they unite with other ducks and feed on the visitors’ handouts.
This duck lives in wetlands and tree cavities. It feeds in ponds, shallow marshes, and lagoons. A domesticated Muscovy Duck can be commonly found in populated parks and farms. These waterfowl are equipped with sharp claws. Hence, they spend most of their time perching in high trees. Also, they willingly arrive and live in artificial nest boxes.
The Wood Duck is a stunningly exquisite bird with an iridescent green and chestnut body. Each of its feathers bears ornate patterns. The females carry a distinct profile with dainty white patterns around their eyes. They possess a crested, boxy head that narrows down to a thin neck with a broad, elongated tail—enhancing their maneuverability.
These ducks dwell in wooded swamps, wherein they nest in tree cavities. They also readily take up next boxes stationed around lakes and ponds. In the air, they retain their head up high, often even bouncing it back and forth. You can also be on the lookout for Wood Ducks in steams and beaver ponds, since they like staying around wet areas with extensive cattails.
The Wood Duck is one of the very few duck species equipped with robust claws that help it grip and perch on barks of trees.
This bird was on the verge of extinction around the 1900s because of extreme exploitation by man to harvest its feathers and meat, habitat loss from over-harvesting of wood, and depletion of marshes and swamps. However, these waterfowl species made a comeback with the inception of 1918’s Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Mostly, the Wood Duck is a resident of Texas and migrates to the South as winters arrive. Its breeding season ranges from mid-February to September. While swimming, the head of this bird jolts back and forth, just like that of a walking pigeon. You might often come across these bubbly creatures assembled in small groups.
The Mallard Duck is a familiar sight to many people living in parts of Texas. In fact, it is abundantly found all across the world. This dabbling duck is characterized by its yellow-colored, wide bill and a rounded green head.
Its grey body parts are sandwiched between a black-toned rear and a brownish front. Females are mottled, and both the sexes bear a white-bound, blue speculum spot on their wings.
It carries a hefty body and long body with the tail riding high out of water. Most of the time, it is seen completely dipping its head or upending in the water. Rarely does this duck dive though, and spends its time feeding on fish, invertebrates, amphibians, and a wide range of plants. The Mallard also grazes during its time on the land and eats grains.
While flying, its wings are quite broad and placed towards the rear end. The Mallard Duck can be extremely domesticated and easily found in city ponds, socializing with other Mallards and different dabbling waterfowl species.
This duck can accommodate all kinds of wetlands, artificial or natural. You can hunt for the Mallards in marches, rivers, lakes, coastal areas, and even residential backyards. While they prefer shallow, calm sanctuaries, you can also find them in brackish water and saltwater zones.
Closely related and similar in size to the Mallard Duck, the Mottled Duck is one of the very few dabbling ducks that nest in America’s Southern marshes. Unlike most other birds, this creature is almost never spotted in large flocks. Rather, it usually travels in pairs and prefers forming small groups.
This duck has a dark-body with a creamy profile. Overall, the color of the males’ body is darker than that of the females. The white-colored stripes on its wings are extremely narrow, sometimes not even noticeable. While males own vibrant, yellowish bills, those in their female counterparts are duller, olive-toned.
The buffy face of the Mottled Duck lacks fine streaks, and so does its throat. While white patterns on its tail indicate that the creature possesses Mallard genes, the one with a dark tail is purely a Mottled Duck. These birds either forage on the water surface or extend their way to reach the submerged herbage. Unless being ambushed by a predator, they rarely dive in the water.
You can spot the Mottled Duck in freshwater wetlands. These include ditches, ponds, lakes, marshes, impoundments, stormwater collection zones, sewage treatment plants, overflooded rice fields, and mosquito repellant reservoirs. Unmistakably the smartest of all ducks across Texas, this is the only waterfowl species in the continental U.S. that never migrates.
The Blue-winged Teal is a tiny dabbler duck that nests throughout the state but chiefly occupies the Panhandle in the breeding season. The Texas Breeding Bird Atlas suggests that this duck is one of the first creatures to migrate southwards during the fall and winter season, subsequently reaching Texas around August. Flocks of this duck appear in large numbers during September.
It is distinguished from other duck species during its flight due to a striking powder-blue mark on its upper-wing coverts. A male Blue-winged Teal is brown-bodied with dingy speckles on the breast. Its bluish head bears a white-colored crescent at the back of its bill. Females display colder, patterned browns on their bodies.
These ducks dabble in small groups and pairs to stick out to submerged vegetation. Also, they are often found interacting with other distinct species of dabbling ducks. You can easily spot them hanging around the edges of ponds, even when people are around. However, they prefer looking for a reserved spot when they need to forage or rest.
Birders usually find the Blue-winged Teal on calm water bodies, ranging from small lakes to marshes. The prairie-pothole area forms the core of their breeding zone, wherein they hustle in grassy habitation mixed with wetlands. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll see this bird in flocks while it swiftly soars high in the sky.
The Northern Pintail is an elegant-looking duck that swims through the water using its slender neck and pointy tails in an upright position. Its tail is much longer and more noticeable on males than on females.
This duck is finely patterned and carries quite a slender profile. During its flight, its wings appear more elongated and narrower. In the air, the male shows a greenish speculum, while the females flash a bronze-toned speculum.
The male Northern Pintail stands out with its glistening white breast and a line that extends all the way down its brown-colored head and neck. Large groups of this duck congregate in bays, lakes, and wetlands. Sometimes, they even waddle through fields and feed on grains while basking in the winter sun. Although these waterfowl species are a pretty common sight in Texas, their populations are gradually declining.
This duck dabbles on the water surface and uses its bills to filter out the insects and seeds. Also, it wobbles on the edges of wetlands and feeds on grains present in agricultural fields. Such waterfowl like forming large groups and willingly get together with ducks of other species during the non-breeding months. Additionally, they forage collectively in shallow waters.
Northern Pintails reside in croplands, seasonal wetlands, wet meadows, and grasslands. Also known as the “greyhound of the air,” these dabblers are commonly found wintering across Texas and on the Gulf Coast.
Appropriately named after its read-colored head, the Redhead Mallard is a dapper blend of a cinnamon forefront, blackish tail and breast, and a defined grey body. Its female counterparts exhibit a plain, fairly consistent brown body.
The Texas Breeding Bird Atlas claims that Texas had reported only one nest of this duck before 1974. Today, records show that these waterfowl are a common sight to the locals, arriving in the state in early September.
These ducks assemble in large numbers and light up coastlines and lakes. They are incredibly sociable, molting and migrating in huge flocks, especially alongside the Gulf Coast. During winters, their numbers can even reach up to thousands. The summer season finds them inhabited in reedy ponds in the West.
You can seek the Readhead Mallard in large rafts, often mingling with other duck species such as scaup, American Coots, wigeon, and Canvasbacks.
Mostly, these ducks like diving to get their food. However, they usually prefer using shallow water bodies as compared to other kinds of diving ducks. They are somewhat similar to the dabbling ducks in their way of feeding by tippling up. Redhead Mallards are so gregarious that they are often known as “rafting ducks.”
The male Ruddy Duck is perhaps the easiest waterfowl to identify with its bright white-colored cheeks, blue-toned bill, and an elongated, firm tail that’s mostly cocked upward. Known for its courtship displays, the male is often seen pouncing the head and stroking its bill on its breast. This produces an indistinct droning sound and a lather of bubbles.
These ducks are known to arrive in the state as early as in August, with most of them flying on the Texas lands from October to April.
The Ruddy Duck is extremely small and compact in size. It fashions a faintly peaked head with shorter, thicker necklines. In-flight, it displays the solidly dark covers of its wings.
This duck species tends to dive in the water to forage on aquatic invertebrates, by and large on the midge larvae. It actively feeds during the night. Therefore, you will often observe the Ruddy Duck snoozing all day long with its head slipped under a wing and an erect tail.
Usually, these ducks nest in marshes beside ponds and lakes. Primarily, you can find them around the Prairie Potholes area. When migrating, they fly to large lakes, rivers and also assemble in coastal estuaries. Also, they enjoy uniting with other ducks, like the Buffleheads.
3 Rarely Seen Species of Ducks in Texas
The Gadwall is about the same size as a Mallard Duck. it bears a large-sized, square-shaped head with a noticeably thinner bill. While flying, its neck and wings appear more slender.
The males carry a greyish-brown body with a black patch on their tail. Females are buffy and patterned with browns. Their bills are also edged with thin orange stripes.
Gadwalls feed in unison with other kinds of dabbling ducks. They often tip forward to forage on submerged vegetation but rarely do they dive. These ducks are known to steal food from other flocks. You’ll often encounter these birds in pairs throughout the winter season. This is because they choose their mates for breeding well in advance.
The American Wigeon is a compact-sized duck with a rounded forefront and a short bill. It tends to rest on the water surface with its head tucked down. This offers it a no-necked appeal.
The breeding males possess a pale cinnamon body with white markings towards the side. Their head is mostly brownish-grey. You can also see a green stripe behind its eyes. Female American Wigeons have a warm-toned brown body with a striking smudge around their eyes.
These ducks congregate together on wetlands and lakes. There, they nibble underwater vegetation from the surface. They also use their short bills to waddle through lands and pluck plants, thereby feeding on them. Unlike many other species, the American Wigeon is quite vocal.
The Lesser Scaup is defined by its small peak stationed towards the rear end of its head. The head and neck of this medium-sized duck are flat, which is in contrast to the most commonly found types of ducks across Texas.
When seen from a distance, the male Lesser Scaup appears white and black. However, a closer look reveals a glowy purplish-green sheen on its head. It carries a pair of yellow eyes and a bluish bill. Females are distinguished by their overall brown bodies and bear a darker brown head with a white mark beside the bill. However, this is not a common sight in every female Lesser Scaup.
When migrating, these ducks form flocks and reach bays, lakes, rivers, and wetlands. They often mix with other diving ducks, especially the Redheads, Canvasbacks, and Ring-necked Ducks. Although they’re an unusual sight in Texas, you can look for these species in coastal regions, estuaries, and reservoirs.
Conclusion: Ducks in Texas
So, this was all about the most captivating duck species inhabited among all Texans. Despite the fact that things in the State are continually shifting with regards to good habitat health, there is one thing that’s quite certain; an abundance of the types of ducks in Texas! As we adapt to combat challenges like the freshwater shortage, loss of habitat, human disturbance, and hunting, it’s crucial for all to enforce collective efforts to preserve our waterfowl species.
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