black and white ducks

Markings and Trivia of Black and White Ducks: A Picture Gallery

Fred Bahnson 


Dabbling, diving, and perching black and white ducks can be commonly found in coastal waters, ponds, and lakes worldwide. In this article, we will explore the markings and trivia of various popular types of black and white ducks from around the world.

American Wigeon

The American wigeon is a beautiful dabbling duck with a heavily speckled head. Males have a white forehead and wide green stripe behind the eye, while females are generally plainer. Both genders have a distinctive light blue bill with a black tip. These ducks, while widespread, can be wary, though they do mingle in mixed flocks with mallards and other duck species.

Wood Duck

The wood duck is a perching duck with spectacular plumage. Males have bold colors with white markings and a vibrant red eye, while females are gray with a white teardrop-shaped eye ring. Both males and females have curved tufts of feathers at the back of the head. These ducks have an aggressive personality and will chase larger ducks away from food and nesting areas, including nest boxes.

Northern Pintail

While many ducks have blunt, stubby tails, the northern pintail has a distinctive long, thin tail that is often held at a sharp upward angle. As a dabbling duck, northern pintails feed by tipping forward into the water to forage on aquatic plants, and one-third of their diet consists of fish and small animals.

Mandarin Duck

The brilliantly colored mandarin duck is common in Asia, Russia, and Japan, with an isolated feral population in the United Kingdom. These bold birds are perching ducks that are closely related to the North American wood duck. Their distinctive beauty makes them popular in Asian artwork, and Chinese lore uses the mandarin duck as a symbol of wedded bliss and marital fidelity.

Ring-Necked Duck

The ring-necked duck has a brown ring around its neck, but it is very difficult to see. The white ring around the tip of the gray bill and a similar ring around the bill’s base, however, are easier field marks to identify. Male and female ducks both have a peaked head, but only the males have the iridescent purple sheen to their plumage. This duck is a superb diver and can feed on aquatic plants up to 40 feet below the surface of the water.


The most well-known and easily recognizable duck in the world, the mallard is also a popular game bird. These ducks frequently crossbreed with other duck species, making identification challenging for many of their offspring. Males have the more colorful plumage, including the iridescent blue-green head and distinctive tail curl, while females are a mottled brown. As a dabbling duck, mallards regularly feed in shallow rivers, ponds, and lakes, and they can become quite tame near human habitation.

Common Goldeneye

The common goldeneye is aptly named for its bright, gold eyes. Males have a round white cheek patch on their black iridescent heads, while females have a brown head and lack the cheek patch. These large diving ducks are common throughout the United States and Canada, and they will frequently use nest boxes.

Ruddy Duck

The ruddy duck is a small, plump duck that is instantly recognizable by its stiff tail, which is often held upright. Breeding males have a bold blue bill and chestnut body, while females are a more camouflaged dingy brown. Winter males resemble females. These are relatively sluggish ducks on the surface, and they frequently dive to avoid predators and to feed.

Northern Shoveler

The northern shoveler is recognizable not only for its bold, colorful plumage but also for having the biggest bill of any North American duck species. This bill is used to feed along the surface of the water, though this dabbling duck will also tip its backside up to feed on aquatic plants along the bottom of shallow ponds and lakes.


The canvasback is one of the largest North American ducks and can measure up to 24 inches long with a 36-inch wingspan. The sloping head shape and long, black, tapered bill are distinctive field marks for this species and help distinguish them from the similar redhead ducks.

Harlequin Duck

The harlequin duck has bold plumage both in terms of color and patterns. Male ducks have red, white, and blue-gray plumage with white crescents, spots, and lines, while females are a plainer brown but still have distinctive white markings on the head. These are diving ducks that are common in western Canada and throughout Alaska, especially on rocky coasts.


The smew is an elegant duck with pied plumage that has thin black lines crossing its white chest and flanks. Females lack the white coloration and are mostly gray and brown with a white cheek patch. Its tufted crest is typical of mergansers (fish-eating diving ducks) and is another clear field marking. This perching bird nests in trees and dives for food and is commonly found in Europe and Asia.


Black and white ducks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each with its unique markings and characteristics. Dabbling, diving, and perching ducks all play their roles in the ecosystems they inhabit, feeding on aquatic plants, small animals, and fish. Whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast or bird-watcher, seeing these ducks in their natural habitats is always a delightful experience.