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13 Common Species of Ducks in Arkansas

Did you know that there are up to 20 species of duck that live in Arkansas? Ducks are a popular game animal in the state, with duck hunters often congregating in beaver dams and other bodies of water. The diversity and abundance of duck species make Arkansas one of the best bird-watching spots in the United States.

Explore more about the various types of ducks that call Arkansas home in this article.

13 Ducks in Arkansas

Diving Ducks

These water-loving ducks are typically found near lakes, rivers, ponds, and wetlands. In Arkansas, diving ducks can be seen almost anywhere with an abundance of open water. These include species such as scaups, canvasbacks, and redheads.

1. Canvasback

Male canvasback swimming
Male canvasback swimming | image by Jason Crotty via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Aythya valisineria

With its striking black and white plumage, this bird stands out from other ducks in the region and can be found inhabiting both freshwater lakes and marshes as well as slow-moving rivers. Canvasback ducks are primarily found in Arkansas during the winter months when they migrate south from their northern nesting grounds.

During this time, they can be seen congregating in large numbers on both shallow and deep lakes close to shorelines where vegetation is abundant.

2. Ring-necked duck

Male ring-necked duck swimming
Male ring-necked duck swimming | image by fishhawk via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Aythya collaris

This medium-sized duck has a black head, white face, and yellow eyes. Males have a distinctive black and white ring around their neck and females are mottled brown. Ring-necked ducks feed on aquatic vegetation, invertebrates, and seeds near the water’s surface.

In Arkansas, these ducks are a common and widespread species during migration times. During spring migration, they can be seen along lakes, rivers, and marshes statewide.

3. Lesser scaup

Lesser scaup duck swimming
Lesser scaup duck swimming | image by Alyenaa Buckles via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Aythya affinis

The Lesser scaup is an uncommon sight in Arkansas, most commonly seen during the winter. A medium-sized duck, the males have iconic black and white plumage with a light gray head, accompanied by an iridescent greenish-purple sheen on its neck. Females have brown heads and mottled gray and brown feathers overall.

In Arkansas, the Lesser scaup is typically found in bodies of water in the northern parts of the state during its winter migration. These ducks feed mainly on aquatic invertebrates such as small clams and freshwater shrimp, as well as aquatic plants.

4. Bufflehead

Male bufflehead swimming
Male bufflehead swimming | image by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region via Flickr

Scientific name: Bucephala albeola

Found across North America, buffleheads are a popular sight in the state, where they are often seen inhabiting rivers, lakes, and marshlands. The adult male bufflehead is easily identified by its striking black-and-white plumage and distinctive white patch atop its head. This diving duck is most commonly seen during the winters in Arkansas when it migrates from colder climates to the southeastern United States to ride out the winter.

5. Common goldeneye

Common goldeneye
Common goldeneye | image by PapaPiper via Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

Scientific name: Bucephala clangula

This medium-sized diving duck is easily recognized by its white and black body, yellow eyes, and striking black-and-white wing pattern. In the winter, it can be seen in small flocks, often where there is an abundance of open water with icy edges. These birds feed on aquatic invertebrates like mussels, snails, clams, dragonfly larvae, and even small fish.

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Its courtship display involves the male repeatedly diving from up high with its wings spread wide, creating a distinctive drumming sound in the air. The common goldeneye serves as an indicator species for healthy waterways.

6. Ruddy duck

Ruddy duck floating
Ruddy duck floating | image by Becky Matsubara via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Oxyura jamaicensis

Identifiable by a light blue bill, black eyes, and a tail that often points straight up when swimming, the ruddy duck can be found in shallow wetlands like lakes, ponds, and marshes during Arkansas winters. The male has a glossy blue-black head with white cheeks, while the female’s head is more brownish.

They are also known for their courtship behavior when males will make a large display to females by lifting their tails upward and shaking them from side to side.

Dabbling Ducks

Dabbling ducks can be seen near ponds, marshes, or other wetlands. They have long necks and short legs that allow them to reach down into the water to feed on aquatic plants as well as insects and larvae.

7. Mallards

Mallard duck standing
Mallard duck standing

Scientific name: Anas platyrhynchos

Mallards have distinctive green heads, yellow bills, and chestnut-colored bodies. Known for their playful behavior and thrive in wetlands, ponds, and lakes throughout the state.

In Arkansas, they’re most commonly seen flying in large flocks during spring migration or visiting backyard ponds and streams in the summer. Their presence is an indication of healthy water ecosystems.

8. Wood ducks

Wood Duck
Wood Duck

Scientific name: Aix sponsa

Wood ducks are a species of dabbling duck found in Arkansas. They inhabit wooded swamps, shallow lakes, marshes, ponds, and streams with dense vegetation, preferring to be close to shorelines. These ducks are noted for their striking plumage and unique call that is often heard in the morning or evening.

9. Northern pintail

Northern pintail
Northern pintail duck | Image by Takashi Yanagisawa from Pixabay

Scientific name: Anas acuta

These ducks are easily recognized by their distinct, long-tailed shape and they can often be found gracefully gliding through the waters of Arkansas’s lakes and wetlands. Males have dark brown heads with white stripes on each side, while females are a mottled brown color with a lighter patch on their bellies.

Northern pintails are also known for their long, pointed wings and tail feathers, which help them soar gracefully over open water or grasslands. During spring migrations, flocks of Northern Pintails can be seen flying in large sweeping V formations as they make their way back to Arkansas for the breeding season.

10. American black duck

American black duck swimming
American black duck swimming | image by Fyn Kynd via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Anas rubripes

This dabbling duck has a mottled brown plumage with a darker head, neck, breast, and back. Its bill is usually olive-green or yellowish-green with a dark upper bill. The American black duck is native to the eastern United States and can be found in Arkansas year-round, primarily near small streams and large rivers, wetlands, and marshes.

11. Mottled duck

Mottled duck swimming
Mottled duck swimming | image by Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Anas fulvigula

Easily identified by its distinctive brown plumage pattern and yellow bill, the mottled duck inhabits a wide range of wetlands, such as marshes, estuaries, ponds, and lakes. Females have a mottled gray-brown head and chestnut body with white spots, while males are darker and more uniformly brown. In Arkansas, they can be found in coastal areas such as the White River National Wildlife Refuge.

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12. Northern shoveler

Male northern shoveler swimming
Male northern shoveler swimming | image by Matti Virtala via Wikimedia Commons

Scientific name: Spatula clypeata

The Northern shoveler has a unique bill shape that allows it to filter food from the water. This duck displays bright iridescent feathers with a black neck, green head, and white chest.

Its body is usually brown in color but its wings have hints of yellow and blue. Winter months find the Northern shoveler in warmer climates, such as Arkansas, searching for food sources to keep them healthy until spring comes.

13. Black-bellied whistling duck

Black bellied whistling duck
Black bellied whistling duck | Image by Robert Woeger from Pixabay

Scientific name: Dendrocygna autumnalis

The Black-Bellied Whistling Duck is an unforgettable species of duck found in the Southern United States. The adult duck has a long and curved bill with a characteristic black belly and a cinnamon-colored body with white stripes around its neck and wings.

Younger ducks are similar in color but have more spots, particularly on the wings and head. When whistling, this duck makes a loud call that can be heard from over a mile away.