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Colorful Duck Breeds

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Ducks can be found in oceans, lakes, rivers, and just about anywhere with water. They can be kept for their eggs, meat, and feathers. 

Apart from the above uses, ducks can also be kept for ornamental purposes.

These birds have beautiful plumage and some have friendly personalities that make them fun to have around.

Our detailed guide lists some common colorful duck breeds you’re likely to come across and their characteristics.

11 Colorful Duck Breeds

Some of the most colorful duck breeds include:

1. Mallard Ducks

A Mallard duck standing near the lake

Mallard ducks are one of the oldest domestic duck breeds in the world. 

They are native to most countries and common in lakes, parks, urban ponds, and other water areas. 

Mallard ducks have round heads, flat bills, and big, long bodies. Their wings are also broad and move towards the rear.

A female Mallard duck has an iridescent green head; its body is mottled brown with orange and a brown bill. Male Mallards have a bright yellow bill and a dark green head. 

Both males and females have a white-bordered, blue patch on their wings. 

Despite being large birds, Mallards can take off vertically from the water. They don’t need to level out to take off. That allows them to escape danger quickly. 

Mallards have webbed feet that allow them to paddle efficiently and quickly underwater and on the water. The breed is also exceptional at swimming; its feathers are water resistant, allowing it to repel water. 

The ducks can be wild birds or raised as ornamental birds or pets. They are calm, relate well with other ducks, and can live in any wetland habitat. 

The average lifespan of the Mallard duck is five to ten years.

2. White-Headed Duck

White Headed Duck swimming in lake

The White-headed duck is originally from Morocco and Spain. The small duck breed is 18 in. (45 cm) long.

A male has a black crown, blue bill, white head, and a reddish-gray plumage, while the female has a darker bill, and its color is dull compared to the male ducks. 

These ducks dive underwater and feed on animal matter and aquatic vegetation.

It breeds where there’s dense vegetation and open water, as this provides a nesting site and cover. 

White-headed ducks swim away instead of flying when there’s an imminent threat. 

The number of these ducks is declining due to hunting and habitat loss. 

3. Mandarin Duck

Beautiful male Mandarin Duck on blurry background

Mandarin duck is another popular duck breed known for its beautiful plumage. As with many bird species, males have a more stunning appearance than females.

The breed originates in China, but you can now find it in wetlands with overhanging trees and park lakes in the United States, Scotland, Wales, and England. 

These ducks have a greenish-black forehead, red bill, orange sails on the back, orange plumes on their cheeks, and pale orange sides.

Females have gray heads, white eye stripes, and brown backs. 

During winter, the ducks fly in large flocks and are highly social. 

Mandarin ducks feed on acorns, small fruits, insects, small fish, and seeds. They have a lifespan of six to seven years. 

4. King Eider

King Eider (Somateria Spectabilis)  swimming on a lake

King Eider ducks have black and white plumage, an orange-red bill, and a pearl blue crown. They also have spring-green cheeks, while the females have black and rusty brown marbling.

These ducks have thick, short necks and heavy bills. 

The breed likes to nest close to freshwater ponds and lakes. This breed winters in subarctic and arctic marine areas and appears annually in the northeastern U.S. and Scotland. 

King Eider ducks forage on sea beds close to 80 ft. deep. They also pick prey from the water surface and use their bills to trap them. You’ll also find them probing in mud for food.

King Eiders migrate and forage in flocks, and it’s common to find them mixed with other sea ducks.

Another unique behavior is that they switch to feeding in freshwater during the nesting season. They include plant material, insects, and some crustaceans in their diet. 

5. Northern Shoveler

A pair of Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata) resting on a log in a middle of a pond

Northern Shoveler ducks breed in the grasslands of North-Central U.S.

One of the distinctive characteristics of the Northern Shoveler is its large spoon-shaped bill that widens at the tip.

The male duck has a green head and neck, chestnut belly, and white breast and chest. A white stripe extends from the breast along the back and white flank spots.

They also have a blue-grayish shoulder patch separated from a green speculum by a white stripe. Its feet and legs are orange, and the bill is black. 

Female Northern Shovelers have a black crown, brownish head, and a spotted brown body. Their upper wings are grayish-blue, and they have an olive-green bill dotted with black spots. 

The breed feeds by dabbling and sifting in ponds and other shallow water surfaces. 

Northern Shovelers feed on crustaceans, mollusks, aquatic insects, saw grass, algae, and more. 

6. Knob-Billed Duck

Knob-billed Duck drake in shallow water

The Knob-billed duck is one of the largest colorful duck species. These ducks are common in South America, Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa.

They are found in wet marshy places like swamps, grassy ponds, rice paddies, and along large lakes and rivers. 

Knob-billed ducks get their name from their bill’s distinctive comb or knob. 

Adult ducks have a pure white neck and underbelly, white head with dark spots, and blue-blackish upper part with a green and blue iridescence

The only difference between males and females is that the former is more sizeable and has a large knob on its bill. 

Being one of the biggest duck species, the knob-billed duck is 22-30 in. (56-76 cm) long and has a wingspan of 57 in. (145 cm). Its strong wings make it an excellent flier. 

These ducks are wild and are only found in their natural habitat. 

7. Spectacled Eider Duck

Adult male Spectacled Eider (Somateria fischeri) swimming on an arctic tundra pond

The Spectacled Eider is another medium-sized colored duck breed.

A male elder has a green head with white eye patches, while the females have round patches of light brown feathers around the eyes. 

These ducks dabble for food in shallow water like Mallard ducks. They also feed on aquatic insects, plant material, and crustaceans. 

They can remain submerged in the water longer than other diving ducks.

Spectacled Eider ducks also gather in large flocks in sea ice openings during the winter and fly in groups in different seasons. 

You can find the breed on small islands, in lakes and ponds, and along coastal marshes.

8. The Ruddy Duck

Male ruddy duck on beautiful green coloured lake water surface

The Ruddy duck is a native of North and South America. Being a small duck species, they have unique characteristics.

Males have sky-blue beaks and black heads with white cheeks. Its tail is black, and the rest of the body is reddish-brownFemale ruddy ducks are brown.

Both sexes are a foot long and weigh close to a pound. 

Unlike most ducks with specific habitat preferences, the Ruddy duck’s habitat depends on the season.

During spring, they move towards breeding grounds and stop at lakes and wetlands, and in winter, you’ll find them in ponds, lakes, wetlands, and bays. 

Ruddy ducks are omnivores and feed on invertebrates and different plants. They use their bill to sift through vegetation in search of small creatures like snails, worms, and insect larvae.

The ducks also feed on duckweed, grass seeds, and water lilies. 

9. Surf Scoter Duck

Male Surf Scoter Duck standing on a rock near lake

The Surf Scoter duck is common in North America. Male Surf Scoters are black and have a white patch on their forehead. Their nape is triangular and white.

These ducks have large bills with truncated sides and swollen tips. Surf scoters have multicolored bills that can be black, yellow, and white. The feet and legs are reddish orange.

Female Surf Scoters are uniformly colored with black-brownish feathers that can sometimes be white.  They also have white patches on the cheeks and a greenish-black bill.

The female Surf Scoters also have dull orange legs and feet. 

Unlike some ducks that dive deep to forage for food, Surf Scoter ducks rarely dive in water that is more than 30 ft. deep.

Some of their food includes small fish, aquatic insects, crustaceans, mollusks, musk grass, and wild celery. 

These ducks breed on freshwater lakes, ponds, and any shallow water surfaces. Adults fly to a specific area where they can molt their feathers.

10. The Smew Duck

Smew swimming on a lake

The Smew duck is a small species known for its beautiful plumage.

These ducks are common in Europe and Asia. Occasionally, you can spot them in North America, although they are not native species. 

A male Smew has bright black patterns on the head and brilliant white color on the back and head. They also have a dark gray beak and pale gray flanks.

The wings are a dark gray color with extensive white patches, and their eyes are black.

Females have dark brown eyes and gray plumage. They also have chestnut-colored heads. Both male and female Smew ducks have gray feet. 

The Smew ducks’ habitat is near significant freshwater sources where they look for fish. Their diet mainly consists of fish and aquatic invertebrates.

Their bill has a serrated edge and a hooked tip to help them catch fish. You can also find them nested in tree hollows.

11. Pink-Eared Duck

Pink Eared Duck swimming on a lake in Australia

The Pink-eared duck is an Australian native and is famous for its spatulate large bull. These ducks are closely related to shelducks. It’s 15-16 in. (38-40 cm) long. 

These ducks have brown upper parts with dark brown underparts. Pink-eared ducks also have a large brown eye patch on their white faces. Their underwing linings are striped white and brown. 

Pink-eared ducks are common in stagnant water, shallow ponds, and wetlands with abundant aquatic life. This breed doesn’t like to hang out in deep or fast-moving waters. 

They like to feed on different insects, crustaceans, and mollusks. On some occasions, they’ll also consume microscopic seeds and algae.


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