26 Ducks Of Ohio (And How To Spot Them)

Ducks Of Ohio new

Ohio is a state rich in waterfowl diversity, with at least 26 species of ducks that can be seen throughout the year.

Whether you are a birdwatcher, a hunter, or just a nature lover, you will find plenty of opportunities to observe and appreciate these beautiful birds.

In this article, we will introduce you to the different types of ducks in Ohio, their habitats, their behaviors, and the seasons they appear in Ohio. We will also provide you with some tips on how to identify them using clues such as their size, shape, color, and calls.

But first, let’s go through the different types of ducks that you will find in Ohio.

The Types of Ducks Found In Ohio

Did you know several types of ducks are found in Ohio? In fact, 5 types of ducks can be seen in the state at various times of the year.

Dabbling ducks are freshwater ducks that feed on the surface of the water or by tipping up their heads into the water and their rears into the air. They sweep their heads from side to side while taking small ‘bites’ or ‘nibbles’ of the water to filter out plants. They also feed on land for seeds and grain or insects.

There are 10 species of dabbling ducks in Ohio, including the mallard, the most widespread duck in North America. Other dabbling ducks in Ohio are the green-winged teal, the northern pintail, the gadwall, the American wigeon, the Eurasian wigeon, the northern shoveler, the blue-winged teal, the American black duck, and the rare Eurasian Teal.

Diving ducks are ducks that feed mainly by diving underwater, using their strong feet (and sometimes their wings) to swim. They eat plants, insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and fish. They are mostly found in deep lakes, rivers, coastal bays, and estuaries.

There are seven species of diving ducks in Ohio, mostly seen during the winter months. They are the lesser scaup, the greater scaup, the redhead, the ring-necked duck, the canvasback, the common goldeneye, and the bufflehead. Two other diving ducks, the common merganser and the red-breasted merganser, are also called sea ducks because they specialize in fish and shellfish and spend most of their lives in saltwater.

Stiff-tailed ducks are a group of ducks that have long, stiff tail feathers, which they erect when resting. They have large, swollen bills and are adapted for diving and feeding on the bottom of wetlands.

They are mostly found in tropical and subtropical regions, but one species, the ruddy duck, occurs in Ohio.

The ruddy duck is a small, chestnut-brown duck with a blue bill and a black-and-white head in breeding males. It is often seen with its tail cocked up. It feeds on aquatic plants, seeds, and invertebrates.

Sea ducks are a diverse group of ducks that are mostly marine and feed on fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants. They are usually found in coastal areas, but some species migrate inland during the winter. They have specialized salt glands to cope with saltwater. They are strong divers and can dive to great depths.

Five species of sea ducks have been spotted in Ohio, mostly on Lake Erie. They are the black scoter, the white-winged scoter, the surf scoter, the long-tailed duck, and the harlequin duck.

Perching ducks are ducks that can perch on branches and nest in tree holes. They are not a natural group, but a collection of different ducks that have evolved similar adaptations to their forested habitats.

They are mostly found in tropical and subtropical regions, but two species occur in Ohio. They are the wood duck and the hooded merganser.

The wood duck is a colorful duck with a crested head and a long tail. It feeds on seeds, fruits, insects, and aquatic plants. The hooded merganser is a small merganser with a fan-shaped crest that can be raised or lowered. It feeds on fish, crustaceans, and insects.

Type of DuckDescriptionSpecies Found in Ohio
Dabbling DucksFreshwater ducks that feed on the surface of the water or by tipping up into the water. They also feed on land.Mallard, Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Eurasian Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Blue-winged Teal, American Black Duck, Eurasian Teal.
Diving DucksDucks that feed mainly by diving underwater. Found in deep lakes, rivers, coastal bays, and estuaries.Lesser Scaup, Greater Scaup, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Canvasback, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Hooded Merganser.
Stiff-tailed DucksHave long, stiff tail feathers and large, swollen bills. Adapted for diving and feeding on the bottom of wetlands.Ruddy Duck.
Sea DucksMostly marine and feed on fish, shellfish, and aquatic plants. Found in coastal areas and have specialized salt glands.Black Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Surf Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Harlequin Duck.
Perching DucksAble to perch on branches and nest in tree holes. Adapted to forested habitats.Wood Duck, Hooded Merganser.
Note that the Hooded Merganser is considered both a diving duck and a perching duck.

The 26 Ducks Of Ohio

1. Eurasian Wigeon

Eurasian Wigeon

The Eurasian Wigeon, Mareca penelope, is a duck species closely related to the American Wigeon. Though not as common, it occasionally makes appearances in Ohio, often mixed in with flocks of American Wigeon​​.

  • Wingspan: approx. 32″
  • Body Length: 16.5” – 20.5”
  • Weight: 17.6 – 33.5 oz 
  • Species Name: Mareca penelope

What Eurasian Wigeons Look Like? Male Eurasian Wigeons have a rufous head with a buff-colored stripe starting at the forehead and a breast that is light rufous in breeding plumage. Females resemble female American Wigeons but have a warmer brown on their heads and a gray underwing when seen in flight​​.

Where and When to Find Eurasian Wigeons? Eurasian Wigeons are occasional visitors in Ohio, often found within flocks of American Wigeons in wetland areas. They are most likely to be spotted during the migration periods of spring and fall.

Eurasian Wigeons Range Map:

Eurasian Wigeon Range Map
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

What Eurasian Wigeons Sound Like? The vocalizations of the Eurasian Wigeon are similar to those of the American Wigeon, with males known for their whistles and females for their quacks.

Eurasian Wigeons Call:

Paul Coiffard, XC844480. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/844480.

How to Attract Eurasian Wigeons to Your Backyard? Attracting Eurasian Wigeons would involve similar practices as for American Wigeons: maintaining wetlands with ample aquatic vegetation and a peaceful environment for resting during migration.

2. Mallard

Mallard

Ohio is a state rich in natural beauty and wildlife, and among its avian treasures is the Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos. This duck is a familiar sight in Ohio, adorning its lakes, ponds, and wetlands throughout the year. In fact, Mallards are so common that they appear in over a quarter of all birdwatchers’ checklists in both summer and winter in Ohio​​​​.

  • Wingspan: 32.3″ – 37.4”
  • Body Length: 19.7″ – 25.6”
  • Weight: 35.3 – 45.9 oz 
  • Species Name: Anas platyrhynchos

The male Mallard is easily recognized by its striking green head, bright yellow bill, gray body, brown breast, and distinctive tail curl. The female is mottled brown with an orange bill, yet both sexes feature the characteristic blue speculum on their wings​​​​.

What Mallards Look Like? Mallards display sexual dimorphism, meaning males and females have distinctly different appearances. The male’s iridescent green head and yellow bill contrast sharply with the more subdued brown plumage of the female. Both share a distinctive purple-blue patch (speculum) on their wings, most visible in flight​​​​.

Where and When to Find Mallards? Mallards are ubiquitous across Ohio’s diverse habitats, including urban parks, rural ponds, and everything in between. They are year-round residents, adaptable to various environments. Look for them dabbling in shallow waters or nesting on the ground near water bodies. They are active during the day, making them easier to spot throughout the year​​​​.

Mallards Range Map:

Mallard Range Map
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/



What Mallards Sound Like? The quintessential “quack” often associated with ducks is primarily the call of the female Mallard. This loud, repetitive quacking serves as a means of communication among the flock. Male Mallards are relatively quieter, producing softer, raspy sounds​​.

Mallards Call:

Jorge Leitão, XC840246. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/840246.


How to Attract Mallards to Your Backyard? Attracting Mallards to your backyard involves creating a welcoming habitat. If you have a pond, maintaining a clean, shallow area with vegetation can entice them. Offering grains like corn or oats can supplement their natural diet. However, remember not to overfeed, as this can disrupt their natural foraging behavior and diet balance.

3. Lesser Scaups

The Lesser Scaup, Aythya affinis, is a common diving duck in Ohio, particularly during migration when it can be found in freshwater habitats​​.

  • Wingspan: 26.8” – 30.7”
  • Body Length: 15.3” – 18.1”
  • Weight: 26.8 – 30.7 oz 
  • Species Name: Aythya affinis

What Lesser Scaups Look Like? Male Lesser Scaups have a black head (sometimes showing purplish iridescence), neck, and breast, with light gray barring over a predominantly white body. They have a blue bill but lack the white strip between the bill and their head, unlike the Ring-necked Duck. Females have a white crescent around their bill and are generally brownish-gray​​.

Where and When to Find Lesser Scaups? Lesser Scaups are often seen in Ohio during migration. They are typically found on freshwater ponds, lakes, and bays, feeding primarily on clams and other marine prey, but they also eat vegetation​​.

Lesser Scaups Range Map:

Lesser Scaups Range Map NEW
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

What Lesser Scaups Sound Like? Lesser Scaups are not particularly vocal, but they can produce a range of soft quacking and murmuring sounds, especially during the breeding season.

Lesser Scaups Call:

Daniel Lane, XC66134. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/66134.

How to Attract Lesser Scaups to Your Backyard? Attracting Lesser Scaups would involve providing a habitat with deep water bodies suitable for diving and foraging. A diverse diet, including aquatic invertebrates and vegetation, will make the habitat more appealing to them.

4. Greater Scaup

Greater Scaup

The Greater Scaup, Aythya marila, is a diving duck similar to the Lesser Scaup, often seen in Ohio, especially during the winter months along the shores of Lake Erie​​​​.

  • Wingspan: 28” – 33”
  • Body Length: 15” – 22”
  • Weight: 25.6 – 48 oz 
  • Species Name: Aythya marila

What Greater Scaups Look Like? Male Greater Scaups have a black head (sometimes showing greenish iridescence), neck, and breast, like the Lesser Scaup, but with light gray barring on top of a white body. Females are similar to Lesser Scaup females, with a white crescent around the bill and a brown-gray body​​​​.

Where and When to Find Greater Scaups? Greater Scaups are typically found in Ohio during the winter, especially near Lake Erie. They prefer open water and are less likely to be found far from Lake Erie within the state​​​​.

Greater Scaups Range Map:

Greater Scaups Range Map New
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

What Greater Scaups Sound Like? Greater Scaups are not known for being particularly vocal, but they do produce soft cooing and grunting noises, especially during mating displays.

Greater Scaups Call:

Peter Boesman, XC322883. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/322883.

How to Attract Greater Scaups to Your Backyard? Attracting Greater Scaups would require a habitat similar to that of Lesser Scaups: large bodies of open water with abundant aquatic vegetation and invertebrates for feeding.

5. Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Duck

The Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis, is a small, stout diving duck known for its bright blue bill (in males during breeding season) and is a year-round resident in Ohio​​​​.

  • Wingspan: approx. 18.5”
  • Body Length: 13.7” – 17”
  • Weight:  10.6 – 30 oz 
  • Species Name: Oxyura jamaicensis

What Ruddy Ducks Look Like? Breeding male Ruddy Ducks have a bright blue bill, chestnut-colored body, and a stiff black tail that is typically erect. Females and non-breeding males are more subdued in color, with females sporting a dark cap and a lighter cheek with a horizontal stripe​​​​.

Where and When to Find Ruddy Ducks? Ruddy Ducks breed in marshy lakes and ponds mainly along the northern edge of Ohio. They are more likely to be found in dense vegetation near wetlands, making them a bit challenging to spot​​​​.

Ruddy Ducks Range Map:

Ruddy Duck Range Map
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

What Ruddy Ducks Sound Like? Ruddy Ducks are relatively quiet, but during the breeding season, males make a series of mechanical clucking sounds as part of their courtship display.

Ruddy Ducks Call:

Peter Ward and Ken Hall, XC603727. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/603727.

How to Attract Ruddy Ducks to Your Backyard? Attracting Ruddy Ducks involves creating a habitat with marshy areas and dense vegetation near water bodies. They feed on a variety of aquatic invertebrates, so maintaining a healthy and diverse wetland ecosystem is beneficial.

6. Black Scoter

Black Scoter New

The Black Scoter, Melanitta nigra, is a sea duck known for its compact size and preference for open saltwater, typically found in Ohio during the winter months​​.

  • Wingspan: 27.6″ – 28.4″
  • Body Length: approx. 19”
  • Weight: 30.4 – 38.8 oz
  • Species Name: Melanitta nigra

What Black Scoters Look Like? Black Scoters are dark sea ducks with short bills, characterized by their mostly uniform dark plumage. They are usually found floating in groups, or “rafts,” on the open water​​.

Where and When to Find Black Scoters? Black Scoters can be found in Ohio during the winter, typically floating on open saltwater. They are often seen in large groups, providing a unique sight for birdwatchers​​.

Black Scoters Range Map:

Black Scoter Range Map
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/



What Black Scoters Sound Like? Black Scoters are not particularly vocal, but they can produce soft whistles and murmurs, especially during the breeding season.

Black Scoters Call:

Martin St-Michel, XC289927. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/289927.

How to Attract Black Scoters to Your Backyard? Attracting Black Scoters is not feasible due to their preference for coastal habitats and open sea. However, preserving coastal habitats and minimizing pollution can help maintain healthy populations of these sea ducks.

7. Bufflehead

Bufflehead

The Bufflehead, Bucephala albeola, is a small and distinctive diving duck, often seen in Ohio during the winter months​​.

  • Wingspan: approx. 21.6”
  • Body Length: 13” – 16”
  • Weight: 9.5 – 19.4 oz
  • Species Name: Bucephala albeola

What Buffleheads Look Like? Male Buffleheads are notable for their large white patch on the back of their head, contrasting with their black back and white body. Females are mostly grey and black with a white splash on the cheek​​​​.

Where and When to Find Buffleheads? Buffleheads in Ohio are typically found in large, open bodies of water, such as lakes, during the winter. They prefer to stay in small groups and can often be seen cruising along the water​​​​.

Buffleheads Range Map:

Bufflehead Range Map
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/



What Buffleheads Sound Like? Buffleheads are generally quiet ducks, but males may make a faint gurgling sound, and females have a soft quack, usually heard during the breeding season.

Buffleheads Call:

Paul Marvin, XC361916. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/361916.

How to Attract Buffleheads to Your Backyard? Creating a habitat suitable for Buffleheads involves providing access to large bodies of water. They feed mostly on mollusks, crustaceans, and insect larvae, so a clean and healthy aquatic environment is essential.

8. Redhead

Redhead

The Redhead, Aythya americana, is a striking diving duck known for its vibrant plumage, commonly seen in Ohio, especially along the shores of Lake Erie and during the winter months in the southwest part of the state​​​​

  • Wingspan: approx. 33”
  • Body Length: approx. 15”
  • Weight: 32 – 40 oz
  • Species Name: Aythya americana

What Redheads Look Like? Male Redheads are easily recognized by their cinnamon-red heads, blue bills with black tips, gray bodies, and black chests and rumps. Females are a duller brown with a bluish-gray bill, maintaining the same rounded head and body shape as the male​​​​.

Where and When to Find Redheads? Redhead ducks favor small wetlands in open, non-wooded areas. They can be found in Ohio all year long along Lake Erie and are also common during the winter in the southwest region of the state​​​​.

Redheads Range Map:

Redhead Range Map
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/


What Redheads Sound Like? Redhead ducks have a range of vocalizations, including soft quacking and more complex mating calls, particularly during the breeding season.

Redheads Call:

Andrew Spencer, XC104592. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/104592.

How to Attract Redheads to Your Backyard? Attracting Redheads requires a habitat with open water and abundant aquatic vegetation. They feed on seeds, aquatic weeds, grasses, and occasionally small fish and invertebrates, so maintaining a diverse aquatic ecosystem is beneficial.

9. Green-winged Teal

Green-winged Teal

The Green-winged Teal, Anas crecca, is the smallest dabbling duck in Ohio, seen throughout the year but more common during migration from September to April​​​​.

  • Wingspan: 20.5” – 23.2”
  • Body Length: 12.2” – 15.3”
  • Weight: 4.9 – 17.6 oz
  • Species Name: Anas crecca

What Green-winged Teals Look Like? Male Green-winged Teals have a green stripe along the sides of their heads, brown heads, and grayish bodies. Females are brown with a yellow streak along the tail. Both sexes possess a green wing patch​​​​.

Where and When to Find Green-winged Teals? These small ducks are commonly found in marshes and shallow ponds in Ohio. They are quick and agile, making them a delight to watch, especially during their migration periods​​​​.

Green-winged Teals Range Map:

Green-winged Teal Range Map
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

What Green-winged Teals Sound Like? Green-winged Teals are relatively quiet, but males can make soft whistling sounds, and females may emit short quacks, especially during mating season.

Green-winged Teals Call:

Frank Lambert, XC354707. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/354707.

How to Attract Green-winged Teals to Your Backyard? Creating a habitat with shallow waters and abundant aquatic vegetation is key to attracting Green-winged Teals. They also feed on seeds and small invertebrates.

10. Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail

The Northern Pintail, Anas acuta, is a graceful and elegant duck often spotted in Ohio, especially during the winter months from October to April​​​​.

  • Wingspan: 29” – 35”
  • Body Length: 20” – 26″
  • Weight: 36.33 oz
  • Species Name: Anas acuta

What Northern Pintails Look Like? Northern Pintails are known for their long, pointy tails and sleek bodies. Males have a brown head, white vertical stripe down their neck, and a patterned gray and white body. Females are brown with scaled patterns. Both have a green patch on their wings​​​​.

Where and When to Find Northern Pintails? In Ohio, Northern Pintails are often found in wetlands and open water bodies. They are most frequently seen over the winter months but can be encountered year-round​​​​.

Northern Pintails Range Map:

Northern Pintails Range Map New
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

What Northern Pintails Sound Like? Northern Pintails are not very vocal, but the males can make a soft whistling sound, and the females have a gentle quack, typically heard during the breeding season.

Northern Pintails Call:

Simon Elliott, XC711907. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/711907.

How to Attract Northern Pintails to Your Backyard? To attract Northern Pintails, maintain a habitat with large open waters and abundant aquatic vegetation. They feed on seeds and aquatic invertebrates, so a natural and diverse ecosystem is beneficial.

11. Gadwall

Gadwall

The Gadwall, Mareca strepera, is a large dabbling duck with a subtle yet elegant appearance, often seen in Ohio from September to May​​​​.

Physical Characteristics

  • Wingspan: 31” – 36”
  • Body Length: 19” – 23”
  • Weight: 35.27 oz
  • Species Name: Mareca strepera

What Gadwalls Look Like? Males have a patterned appearance with a dark-brown head and black, scaled patterns on their body. Females are generally brown all-over, with a more diffused pattern. Both genders are recognizable by their subtle coloring and understated elegance​​​​.

Where and When to Find Gadwalls? Gadwalls in Ohio are typically found in open wetlands with dense vegetation. They are present throughout the year but are most commonly seen during the winter months​​​​.

Gadwalls Range Map:

Gadwalls Range Map New
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

What Gadwalls Sound Like? Gadwalls are generally quiet, but they do make soft quacking and chattering sounds, especially during mating and social interactions.

Gadwalls Call:

SonoNatura, XC855767. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/855767.

How to Attract Gadwalls to Your Backyard? To attract Gadwalls, maintain a natural wetland habitat with plenty of aquatic vegetation for them to forage. They also feed on seeds and aquatic invertebrates, so a diverse ecosystem will be beneficial.

12. Northern Shoveler

 Northern Shoveler

The Northern Shoveler, Spatula clypeata, is known for its distinctive large, spoon-shaped bill, and it is often spotted in Ohio, especially from September to May​​​​.

Physical Characteristics

  • Wingspan: 27.2” – 33.1”
  • Body Length: 17.3” – 20.1”
  • Weight: 14.1 – 28.9 oz
  • Species Name: Spatula clypeata

What Northern Shovelers Look Like? Male Northern Shovelers have green heads, reddish-brown sides, white chests, and black backs. Females are mottled brown with a large orange bill. Their most distinctive feature is their large bill, used for filtering food from the water​​​​.

Where and When to Find Northern Shovelers? In Ohio, Northern Shovelers are typically found in wetlands and marshy areas. They are most commonly seen during the winter months​​​​.

Northern Shovelers Range Map:

Northern Shoveler Range Map
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

What Northern Shovelers Sound Like? Males produce a clattering call, while females have a mallard-like quack. These sounds are more commonly heard during the breeding season.

Northern Shovelers Call:

SonoNatura, XC786411. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/786411.

How to Attract Northern Shovelers to Your Backyard? Providing a habitat with shallow, marshy areas and abundant aquatic vegetation can attract Northern Shovelers. They feed primarily on small aquatic invertebrates and seeds.

13. Wood Duck

Wood Duck

In the scenic landscapes of Ohio, the Wood Duck, Aix sponsa, stands out as a remarkably colorful waterfowl. These ducks are not only residents throughout the year but are particularly prominent from March to October​​​​.

  • Wingspan: 26” – 28.7”
  • Body Length: 18.5” – 21.3”
  • Weight: 16 – 30.4 oz
  • Species Name: Aix sponsa

Wood Ducks exhibit striking sexual dimorphism. The male boasts an iridescent green head with a sweeping crest, red eyes, and a multicolored body. The female is predominantly gray-brown with distinctive white markings around her eyes​​​​.

What Wood Ducks Look Like? The male Wood Duck is arguably one of the most strikingly beautiful ducks with its vivid colors and patterns. In contrast, the female presents a more subtle beauty with her gray-brown plumage and white eye markings. Both genders display the characteristic blue speculum on their wings​​​​.

Where and When to Find Wood Ducks? Wood Ducks are commonly found in wooded swamps, shallow lakes, and marshes across Ohio. They are most visible during the summer breeding season. Look for them in pairs or small groups in quiet, sheltered waters. They are mainly active during the day, making them accessible for observation​​​​.

Wood Ducks Range Map:

Wood Duck Range Map New
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

What Wood Ducks Sound Like? Wood Ducks are relatively quiet, but the males can emit a thin, high-pitched whistle, while females make a characteristic “oo-eek” when agitated. These vocalizations are more commonly heard during the breeding season.

Wood Ducks Call:

Aziza Cooper, XC679723. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/679723.

How to Attract Wood Ducks to Your Backyard? Attracting Wood Ducks involves providing a natural habitat close to water bodies. Installing nest boxes near ponds or streams can encourage them to breed. Keeping the surroundings natural and undisturbed also helps in making them feel secure. Additionally, maintaining clean water bodies and avoiding pesticides or chemicals nearby will support their presence.

14. Blue-Winged Teal

Blue-Winged Teal

The Blue-Winged Teal, Spatula discors, is a small and agile duck often spotted in Ohio, particularly from March through October during its migration season​​​​.

  • Wingspan: 23” – 31”
  • Body Length: 15” – 17”
  • Weight: 19.18 oz
  • Species Name: Spatula discors

What Blue-Winged Teals Look Like? The male Blue-Winged Teal is notable for its bluish-gray head with a distinctive white crescent in front of the eyes and a spotted brown body. The female is generally brown, with a subtler appearance. Both genders display a characteristic blue patch on their shoulders​​​​.

Where and When to Find Blue-Winged Teals? In Ohio, Blue-Winged Teals are typically seen in shallow waters near shorelines during spring and fall migration. They prefer marshes and small ponds and are usually active during the day​​​​.

Blue-Winged Teals Range Map:

Blue-Winged Teals Range Map New
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

What Blue-Winged Teals Sound Like? Male Blue-Winged Teals have a high-pitched whistle, while females have a harsher, nasal quack. These sounds are particularly prominent during the breeding season.

Blue-Winged Teals Call:

Thomas Magarian, XC341821. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/341821.

How to Attract Blue-Winged Teals to Your Backyard? Creating a habitat with shallow water areas and abundant aquatic vegetation can attract these teals. They also feed on small seeds and insects.

15. Long-tailed Duck

Long-tailed Duck

The Long-tailed Duck, Clangula hyemalis, previously known as the Oldsquaw, is a striking and agile duck that is found in Ohio primarily during its migration​​.

  • Wingspan:  27.9” – 28.4”
  • Body Length: 15.8” – 18.5”
  • Weight: 7.6 – 33.5 oz
  • Species Name: Clangula hyemalis

What Long-tailed Ducks Look Like? The male Long-tailed Duck is notable for its long, slender tail feathers and striking plumage that changes throughout the year. Breeding males have white heads, necks, and breasts with a black cheek patch. Females are mostly brown with white patches. These ducks are known for their agile diving ability​​​​.

Where and When to Find Long-tailed Ducks? Long-tailed Ducks are usually seen in Ohio during their migration as they travel from the Arctic to the Atlantic coast. They pass through the eastern part of the state, stopping to rest and feed along the way​​.

Long-tailed Ducks Range Map:

Long-tailed Duck Range Map New
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

What Long-tailed Ducks Sound Like? Long-tailed Ducks are known for their unique and complex vocalizations, including yodeling calls by males during the breeding season.

Long-tailed Ducks Call:

Thomas Bergman, XC787095. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/787095.

How to Attract Long-tailed Ducks to Your Backyard? Attracting Long-tailed Ducks is challenging due to their preference for coastal areas and open water during migration. However, maintaining a natural habitat along migration routes with ample food sources like mollusks and crustaceans can provide rest and nourishment for these birds.

16. Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Duck Pair

The Harlequin Duck, Histrionicus histrionicus, is a small, strikingly patterned sea duck that is a recent winter visitor to Ohio, particularly known for its preference for turbulent waters near rocky coasts​​.

  • Wingspan: 22.1” – 26”
  • Body Length: 13.4” – 18.1”
  • Weight: 17.3 – 26.8 oz 
  • Species Name: Histrionicus histrionicus

What Harlequin Ducks Look Like? Male Harlequin Ducks are easily recognized by their slate-blue bodies, chestnut sides, and distinct white stripes and spots on their faces and necks. Females are brown with white spots on the face and behind the eye. Their unique coloration sets them apart from other duck species​​.

Where and When to Find Harlequin Ducks? Harlequin Ducks are winter visitors to Ohio and can be found along rocky coastlines and jetties, where they often gather in small groups. They are known for their love of rough, turbulent waters​​.

Harlequin Ducks Range Map:

Harlequin Duck Range Map New
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

What Harlequin Ducks Sound Like? Harlequin Ducks are known to make squeaking noises when they are together, earning them the nickname “Sea Mouse.” Their vocalizations are more noticeable when they are in groups.

Harlequin Ducks Call:

Stein Ø. Nilsen, XC651347. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/651347.

How to Attract Harlequin Ducks to Your Backyard? Attracting Harlequin Ducks is challenging due to their preference for coastal habitats and turbulent waters. However, conservation efforts along coastal areas and awareness of their presence can help protect these stunning ducks and their habitats.

17. Common Goldeneye

Common Goldeneye

The Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula, is a distinctive diving duck known for its bold eye color, frequently seen in Ohio during the winter months​​​​.

  • Wingspan: 30” – 32”
  • Body Length: 18” – 20”
  • Weight: 35.2 oz
  • Species Name: Bucephala clangula

What Common Goldeneyes Look Like? Male Common Goldeneyes have white bodies with black rumps and iridescent greenish-black heads, marked by a white spot beneath their golden eyes. Females have light gray bodies, dark rears, and brown heads​​​​.

Where and When to Find Common Goldeneyes? Common Goldeneyes are found in Ohio during winter, favoring woodland lakes and rivers for breeding and open water in non-wooded areas during winter. They are typically seen in lakes and large ponds​​​​.

Common Goldeneyes Range Map:

Common Goldeneye Range Map
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

What Common Goldeneyes Sound Like? Common Goldeneyes are relatively quiet, but the males can make a soft whistling sound, and the females may emit a hoarse quack, mainly heard during the breeding season.

Common Goldeneyes Call:

Jeff Stewart, XC811958. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/811958.

How to Attract Common Goldeneyes to Your Backyard? Attracting Common Goldeneyes involves providing access to large water bodies, preferably with a mix of open water and wooded areas. They feed primarily on mollusks, crustaceans, and insect larvae, so a clean and healthy aquatic environment is essential.

18. Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser Pair

The Hooded Merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus, is a small and distinctively crested duck that can be found in Ohio’s ponds and bays, especially those surrounded by woods​​.

  • Wingspan: 23.6” – 26”
  • Body Length: 15.8” – 19.3”
  • Weight: 16 – 31 oz
  • Species Name: Lophodytes cucullatus

What Hooded Mergansers Look Like? Male Hooded Mergansers have a striking black-and-white hood, cinnamon body, black back, and long, slender bills. Females have a dark gray body with frosted brown feathers trailing behind their heads and a more subtle crest​​​​.

Where and When to Find Hooded Mergansers? In Ohio, Hooded Mergansers are usually found on ponds and bays with surrounding woodlands. They are adept at utilizing old woodpecker holes for nesting and primarily consume fish, crustaceans, and insects​​.

Hooded Mergansers Range Map:

Hooded Mergansers Range Map New
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

What Hooded Mergansers Sound Like? Hooded Mergansers are not particularly vocal, but they can produce various sounds, including croaks and weak whistles, primarily during the breeding season.

Hooded Mergansers Call:

Paul Marvin, XC346073. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/346073.

How to Attract Hooded Mergansers to Your Backyard? To attract Hooded Mergansers, maintain a habitat with wooded areas near ponds or streams. Providing nesting boxes can also encourage them to breed. Ensuring a clean water source with abundant small fish and aquatic invertebrates will appeal to their diet preferences.

19. Common Merganser

Common Merganser

The Common Merganser, Mergus merganser, is a large and elegant merganser often seen in Ohio throughout the year, with a more prominent presence in fall and winter​​.

  • Wingspan: 33.9″”
  • Body Length: 21.3”- 27.9”
  • Weight: 31.8 – 76.2 oz
  • Species Name: Mergus merganser

What Common Mergansers Look Like? Male Common Mergansers have sleek iridescent green heads, white bodies, and black backs, while females are gray with cinnamon heads and a short crest. They possess long, slender orange bills and glide gracefully on water​​​​.

Where and When to Find Common Mergansers? Common Mergansers in Ohio are found on larger bodies of water, such as lakes and rivers. They are year-round residents but are more visible during colder months​​.

Common Mergansers Range Map:

Common Mergansers Range Map New
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

What Common Mergansers Sound Like? Common Mergansers are generally quiet, but they can make low croaking sounds and occasional calls, especially during mating and social interactions.

Common Mergansers Call:

Simon Elliott, XC855803. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/855803.

How to Attract Common Mergansers to Your Backyard? Attracting Common Mergansers involves providing a habitat with large, open-water bodies. They feed primarily on fish, so a healthy fish population is crucial. Maintaining a natural, undisturbed shoreline can also be beneficial.

20. Red-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser

The Red-breasted Merganser, Mergus serrator, is a distinctive and large merganser often seen in Ohio during the winter months​​.

  • Wingspan: 26” – 29.1”
  • Body Length: 20.1” – 25.2”
  • Weight: 28.2 – 47.6 oz 
  • Species Name: Mergus serrator

What Red-breasted Mergansers Look Like? Both male and female Red-breasted Mergansers have long, slim, serrated bills, with males featuring a red bill and females an orange one. They are known for their “messy” hair-like feathers on their heads. The males have a dark green head with a spiky-looking crest and a cinnamon-colored chest, while females are more muted in color​​​​.

Where and When to Find Red-breasted Mergansers? Red-breasted Mergansers are typically seen in Ohio during the winter. They prefer coastal areas and large bodies of water, sitting low in the water, and are excellent divers, often feeding on fish​​.

Red-breasted Mergansers Range Map:

Red-breasted Mergansers Range Map New
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

What Red-breasted Mergansers Sound Like? Red-breasted Mergansers are not particularly vocal, but they can produce a range of soft coos and croaks, especially during the breeding season.

Red-breasted Mergansers Call:

Hans Norelius, XC571300. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/571300.

How to Attract Red-breasted Mergansers to Your Backyard? Attracting Red-breasted Mergansers requires access to large bodies of water, preferably with an abundant fish population. Maintaining a natural and undisturbed coastal or lakeside habitat is also beneficial for these birds.

21. American Black Duck

American Black Duck

The American Black Duck, Anas rubripes, is a robust and versatile species commonly seen in Ohio, particularly from October to April​​​​.

  • Wingspan: 33” – 36”
  • Body Length: 19” – 23”
  • Weight: approx. 49.6 oz
  • Species Name: Anas rubripes

What American Black Ducks Look Like? The American Black Duck is characterized by its dark brown body and paler brown head. Males have a yellow bill, while females possess an olive one. Both sexes display a distinctive purple-blue speculum on their wings​​​​.

Where and When to Find American Black Ducks? These ducks are adaptable and can be found in a variety of wetland habitats across Ohio. They are more common during the winter months and can be seen foraging in marshes, ponds, and rivers​​​​.

American Black Ducks Range Map:

American Black Duck Range Map
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

What American Black Ducks Sound Like? American Black Ducks have a range of vocalizations, including quacks similar to Mallards, but they are typically quieter and more reserved in their calls.

American Black Ducks Call:

William Whitehead, XC764687. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/764687.

How to Attract American Black Ducks to Your Backyard? To attract American Black Ducks, maintaining a natural wetland environment with abundant food sources such as seeds and aquatic invertebrates is key. Providing undisturbed nesting areas can also encourage them to visit.

22. American Wigeon

American Wigeon

The American Wigeon, Mareca americana, is a striking duck known for its distinctive plumage, commonly found in Ohio during the winter months from September to May​​​​.

  • Wingspan: approx. 33.1”
  • Body Length: 16.5” – 23.2”
  • Weight: 19.1 – 46.9 oz
  • Species Name: Mareca americana

What American Wigeons Look Like? Males have a distinctive green stripe on the sides of their heads and white caps, while females are brown with grayish-brown heads. Both have pale beaks and exhibit subtle yet attractive coloration​​​​.

Where and When to Find American Wigeons? American Wigeons can be found in open wetlands and grasslands in Ohio during their migration period. They are most likely to be seen feeding on pond vegetation and are ground nesters​​​​.

American Wigeons Range Map:

American Wigeon Range Map New
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

What American Wigeons Sound Like? While female American Wigeons have a husky-sounding quack, the males are known for their whistling sounds, adding a melodic element to their presence​​.

American Wigeons Call:

Bruce Lagerquist, XC404504. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/404504.

How to Attract American Wigeons to Your Backyard? Providing a habitat with ample aquatic vegetation and shallow water areas can attract American Wigeons. They also feed on seeds, making areas with natural grasslands appealing to them.

23. Ring-necked Duck

The Ring-necked Duck, Aythya collaris, is a medium-sized diving duck, often seen in Ohio during the fall and winter months​​.

  • Wingspan: approx. 24”
  • Body Length: 15” – 18”
  • Weight: 16 – 32 oz
  • Species Name: Aythya collaris

What Ring-necked Ducks Look Like? The male Ring-necked Duck has a black head with a noticeable bump on top, a black back, and a light gray body. Females have a medium-gray back over a light brown body, with a white eye ring and a white spot near the bill​​.

Where and When to Find Ring-necked Ducks? Ring-necked Ducks are common migrants in Ohio, found in freshwater habitats like ponds and lakes. They are more commonly seen in the state during their southward migration for the winter​​.

Ring-necked Ducks Range Map:

Ring-necked Duck Range Map
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/



What Ring-necked Ducks Sound Like? Ring-necked Ducks are relatively quiet, but males can emit a soft, mewing call, and females have a gentle quack, usually heard during mating season.

Ring-necked Ducks Call:

Bruce Lagerquist, XC640712. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/640712.


How to Attract Ring-necked Ducks to Your Backyard? Attracting Ring-necked Ducks involves creating a habitat with deep water bodies for diving. They feed on aquatic invertebrates and vegetation, so a healthy aquatic ecosystem with a variety of food sources can encourage them to visit.

24. Canvasback

The Canvasback, Aythya valisineria, is a large and striking diving duck, seen in Ohio primarily during the winter​​.

  • Wingspan: 31” – 35”
  • Body Length: 19” – 22”
  • Weight: 30.4 – 56 oz
  • Species Name: Aythya valisineria

What Canvasbacks Look Like? Males have a chestnut-red head and neck, a black breast, and a white body. Females have light brown heads. Both genders are recognizable by their unique sloping head profile​​​​.

Where and When to Find Canvasbacks? Canvasbacks are typically found in Ohio during the winter months. They frequent prairie wetlands and large open-water bodies, such as lakes and large ponds​​​​.

Canvasbacks Range Map:

Canvasback Range Map New
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/



What Canvasbacks Sound Like? Canvasbacks are not very vocal, but they can produce a range of sounds including low cooing and grunting noises, especially during mating displays.

Canvasbacks Call:

Paul Driver, XC169220. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/169220.

How to Attract Canvasbacks to Your Backyard? Attracting Canvasbacks involves maintaining large, open-water areas with abundant aquatic vegetation for feeding. They primarily feed on aquatic plants and invertebrates, so a diverse and healthy water ecosystem is beneficial.

25. White-winged Scoter

Ohio, with its diverse habitats and position along major migratory routes, is a haven for various bird species, including the remarkable White-winged Scoter.

  • Wingspan: 31.5”
  • Body Length: 20 – 24”
  • Weight: Males: 32 – 75.2 oz
  • Species Name: Melanitta deglandi

What White-winged Scoters Look Like? The White-winged Scoter is distinguished by its robust size and striking appearance. Males showcase a bold black body with a distinctive white patch on the wings and around the eye. Females, in contrast, are more subdued in color, with browner plumage and less prominent white markings.

Where and When to Find White-winged Scoters? In Ohio, these sea ducks are mostly spotted during their migration, particularly along the Lake Erie shores. They prefer large, open bodies of water, offering birdwatchers a spectacular view, especially in winter during daylight hours.

White-winged Scoters Range Map:

White-winged Scoter Range Map New
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

What White-winged Scoters Sound Like? Their vocalization is a low, muffled “woof-woof-woof” sound, which is quite distinct among sea ducks. This sound can be an aid in identifying them, especially during migration.

White-winged Scoters Call:

Andrew Spencer, XC181618. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/181618.

How to Attract White-winged Scoters to Your Backyard? Attracting White-winged Scoters to backyards is challenging due to their preference for large bodies of water. However, creating a bird-friendly environment with clean, open water sources and minimizing disturbances can make your backyard more inviting to various waterfowl during migration.

26. Surf Scoter

The Surf Scoter is a sea duck that can be found in Ohio during late fall and early winter.

  • Wingspan: 29.9” – 30.3”
  • Body Length: 18.9” – 23.6”
  • Weight: Males: 31.8 – 45.6 oz, Females: 32 oz
  • Species Name: Melanitta perspicillata

What Surf Scoters Look Like? The male and female Surf Scoters differ in appearance. The male has a velvety black plumage with white patches on the forehead and nape, while the female is browner with subtle markings on the cheek and face.

Where and When to Find Surf Scoters? Surf Scoters are usually found in ocean surf, salt bays, and marinas. During summer, they can be found in fresh Arctic lakes and tundra. Breeding habitat is near lakes and slow-moving rivers in far north, in sparsely forested or semi-open terrain, sometimes out on open tundra. In winter, they are mostly found on the ocean in shallow bays or estuaries. They are occasionally found on the Great Lakes, but rarely on other bodies of fresh water.

Surf Scoters Range Map:

Surf Scoter Range Map New
Credit: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/

What Surf Scoters Sound Like? Surf Scoters are generally silent, but courting males make low popping noises, and both sexes give raspy, low-pitched calls. When alarmed, they often make a sound like a “guk,” somewhere between a “cluck” and a “tok,” while rapidly surveying their environment or taking to flight.

Surf Scoters Call:

Martin St-Michel, XC295513. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/295513.

How to Attract Surf Scoters to Your Backyard? To attract Surf Scoters to your backyard, you can provide a suitable habitat by creating a small pond or wetland area. You can also provide food by planting aquatic vegetation and offering small fish or invertebrates.

Duck-Watching Locations in Ohio

Ohio’s diverse landscapes of lakes, ponds, rivers, wetlands, and the Great Lakes shorelines make it an ideal habitat for numerous duck species.

Areas like marshes, beaches, bays, and bodies of water are prime locations for spotting a variety of ducks. Year-round residents include Mallards, Wood Ducks, Gadwalls, Green-winged Teals, Lesser Scaups, and Ruddy Ducks, along with all three Merganser species. Blue-winged Teals, however, are only visible during their Spring and Fall migrations.

Whether you are a beginner or an experienced birder, there are plenty of locations throughout Ohio where you can observe these beautiful ducks in their natural habitat.

Castalia Duck Pond

Situated in the heart of Castalia, Ohio, the Castalia Duck Pond is a popular spot among birders and nature photographers. Thanks to its artesian springs, the pond remains ice-free during winter. It attracts a variety of ducks, including Mallards, Gadwalls, Northern Shovelers, American Wigeons, Canada Geese, and American Black Ducks.

Alum Creek State Park

Located in Delaware County, Ohio, Alum Creek State Park features a large lake that serves as a home to numerous duck species. Visitors can expect to see Mallards, Wood Ducks, Ruddy Ducks, and Hooded Mergansers.

Magee Marsh Wildlife Area

The Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, located in Ottawa County, Ohio, offers excellent birdwatching opportunities. Thousands of ducks, including Blue-winged Teals, Northern Shovelers, and Green-winged Teals, pass through the area during the spring migration.

Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area

Situated in Wyandot County, Ohio, the Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area houses various waterfowl species. Among them are Mallards, Wood Ducks, and Northern Shovelers. The area also has several ponds and wetlands that attract a diverse range of ducks.

In addition to these locations, Ohio boasts several other birding hotspots, such as the Howard Marsh in Curtice, Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus, and Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area near Toledo. North Chagrin Metropark near Mayfield is known for its tame Wood Ducks, and Pickerington Ponds is an important birding area, with more than 260 species of birds observed.

In general wetlands, lakes, rivers, and coastal areas are some of the best places to find ducks in Ohio. 

The Best Time To Observe Ducks In Ohio

The best time to observe ducks in Ohio is during their migration seasons, which typically occur in the fall and spring. During these times, ducks are more active and visible as they travel to and from their breeding grounds.

Ducks are most active in the early morning and late afternoon, making these optimal times for spotting them. Additionally, during the winter months, when lakes and wetlands freeze over, ducks flock to open water areas where they can find food and shelter.

Tips For Duck Watching

  • Bring binoculars or a spotting scope to get a closer look at ducks from a distance.
  • Wear camouflage or neutral-colored clothing to blend in with the environment and not startle the ducks.
  • Avoid loud noises or sudden movements, as this can scare off the ducks.
  • Stay quiet and still while observing, as this will allow you to get a better view of their natural behavior.
  • Consider bringing a field guide or birding app to help identify different duck species.
  • Be patient and keep an eye out for any movement or activity in the water, as ducks are known to dive and swim underwater.

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