Category Archives: Duck like birds

Snow Goose – Chen Caerulescens

General: The Snow Goose has two color plumage phases, white (snow geese) or gray/blue (blue geese). The dark color of the blue morph Snow Goose is controlled by a single gene, with dark being partially dominant Snow Goooseover white.(1) Scientists used to believe these were separate species but now consider the birds the same. White and blue phase birds interbreed and the offspring may be either white or blue.

Snow Geese mate for life. Nesting usually begins at the end of May. They make a shallow ground nest lined with down. The female produces two to six whitish eggs. Incubation takes about 23-25 days, they fledge in 45-49 days. After hatching, the young are covered with down and eyes open. The chicks feed themselves but are protected by both parents. Parents stay with their young through the first winter.

Here is an interesting fact: Snow Geese and Ross’s Geese can breed. I have read that they can also breed with Greater White-fronted Geese, Canada Geese, and Cackling Geese.
These geese are known to gather in massive flocks.

Identification: The Snow Goose is a medium-sized goose. They are 22” – 30” long with a wing span of 54″ – 59”. They weigh approximately 4 -6 lbs. Snow geese have two phases – “white” and “blue”. The White Goose as the picture indicates is white except for black wing tips. This phase is more common in the east. The blue phase has bluish-grey plumage replacing the white except on the head, neck and tail tip. This phase is common on the Gulf coastSnow Goose and West.

Both snow and blue phases have rose-red feet and legs, and pink bills with black tomia (“cutting edges”), giving them a black “grin patch.”

Habitat: In breeding season – on subarctic and arctic tundra, near ponds or streams. In winter – in coastal marshes and bays, wet grasslands, freshwater marshes, and cultivated fields.

Territory: The snow goose breeds north of the timberline in Greenland, Canada, Alaska, and the northeastern tip of Siberia

Migration: The Snow Goose migrates from its breeding grounds to warmer parts of North America from snow Goosesouthwestern British Columbia into parts of the United States and Mexico mostly in salt marshes and coastal bays. Snow Geese travel south in very large, high-flying flocks.

Hunting: In 1916, snow geese had become so rare in the eastern United States that hunting of the species was banned. Today the snow goose population is strong and growing. So strong in fact that New York has a spring hunting season. The birds have become so numerous in places that they threaten to destroy their own habitat. I do not remember seeing snow geese in eastern New York 20 years ago, now they are common during migration. Hunting is typical goose hunting – field hunting with decoys works well. The meat of snow geese is good. Do not miss an opportunity to hunt these birds. The shooting is fast and fun.

Food: Marsh plants, field grain – corn, rice, wheat, etc

(1) Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Mallard – Anas platyrhynchos

General: The Mallard is widely found in most North America and Eurasia. They inhabit all kinds of wetlands Mallard duck  male called a drakefrom large lakes to urban park ponds. Most of today’s domestic ducks are descendents of the Mallard. One problem throughout the world is that the mallard has been introduced, sometimes to the detriment of native species – and not just native ducks. So, there are places that the Mallard is considered invasive.

Mallards are know to crossbreed with multiple other species such as pintails and black ducks.1

Mallard eggs are creamy to greenish. The chicks hatch in about 23 – 30 days and fledge in 52 -70 days. The chicks are able to leave the nest in 1 day from hatching. Only the female incubates the eggs and takes care of the ducklings. Mallards frequently interbreed with their closest relatives such as the American Black Duck.

The Mallard is one of the most popular ducks for hunters. It has a lot to do with their large population and wide distribution. A popular method is to hunt over decoys. Mallard meat is mild and excellent to cook.

Identification: The drake mallard is 22″ – 26″ long, has a wingspan of 32″ – 39″ and weighs 2 – 4lbs. Females are slightly smaller.

Male: The most prominent identifying feature of the male mallard is its iridescent green head with a white ring at the base of the neck. Its bill is yellow to green. The breast and sides are silvery white. The back is gray.

Female & Juveniles:
The female is mottled brown overall with a lighter breast and darker back. Her bill is Mallard duck  female called a henorange with black blotches.

Both sexes have orange feet and legs. They have blue-violet speculums with white margins.

The biggest problem I have had is identifying female Mallards from the American Black Duck. The American Black Duck is darker and has no white borders to its purplish speculum and its tail is dark.

Habitat: Mallards can be found in all wet areas – from marshes, lakes, agricultural lands to urban ponds

Territory: Mallards are the most widespread and abundant duck in North America. They breed from Alaska most of Canada, the USA and into Mexico. They migrate south to the Southern USA into Mexico. Many birds stay north and will migrate only when forced by iced rivers and lack of food.

Diet: Mallards eat mostly plant matter and can be seen in and around agricultural farms. They also eat insects and larvae and aquatic invertebrates. Mallards are dabblers, feeding at the surface of water often times tipping up in shallow water. They will also move to fields and feed on corn, rye and other agricultural grains.

1. Field & Stream November 2011 pg 4: Fowl Fusion by: T. Edward Nickens

Canada goose – Branta canadensis

Specialized for plant feeding. Aggressive behavior during mating season These birds feed mainly on plant material. When feeding in water, they submerge their heads and necks to reach aquatic plants, sometimes Like most geese, the Canada goose is naturally migratory with the wintering range being most of the tipping forward like a dabbling duck. Flocks of these birds often feed on leftover cultivated grains in fields, especially during migration or in winter.

During the second year of their lives, Canada Geese find themselves a mate. Most couples stay together all of their lives. If one is killed, the other may find a new mate. The female lays 4-8 eggs and both parents protect the nest while the eggs incubate, but the female spends more time at the nest than the male. During that time, they lose their flight feathers, so that they cannot fly until after their eggs hatch. This period lasts for 25-28 days.

Adult geese are often seen leading their goslings in a line, usually with one parent at the front, and the other at the back of the “parade”. While protecting their young, parents often violently chase away nearby creatures, The Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) belongs to the Branta genus of geesefrom small blackbirds to other geese, to humans that approach, after warning them by giving off a hissing sound. However, geese may form groups of a number of goslings and a few adults, called crèches. The young do not leave their parents until after the spring migration, when they return to their birthplace.

This well-known species is native to North America. It breeds in Canada and the northern United States in a variety of habitats. However, the nest is usually located in an elevated area near water, sometimes on a beaver lodge. The eggs are laid in a shallow depression lined with plant material and down. The Great Lakes region maintains a very large population of Canada Geese.

Like most geese, the Canada goose is naturally migratory with the wintering range being most of the United States. The calls overhead from large groups of Canada Geese flying in V-shaped formation signal the transitions into spring and autumn. In some areas, migration routes have changed due to changes in habitat and food sources. In mild climates, such as the Pacific Northwest, due to a lack of former predators, some of the population has become non-migratory.

Non-migratory Canada Goose populations have been on the increase. They are suspected of being a cause of an increase in high fecal coliforms at State Park beaches. This has led to extended hunting seasons and the use of noise makers in an attempt to disrupt suspect flocks over the course of several years.


Yellow plumage of gosling. The black head and neck with white “chinstrap” distinguish this goose from all canada geese feed mainly on plant materialexcept the Barnacle Goose, but the latter has a black breast, and grey, rather than brownish, body plumage. There are seven subspecies of this bird, of varying sizes and plumage details, but all are recognizable as Canada Geese. Some are hard to distinguish from the Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii), with which the Canada Goose was long assumed to form one species; the name Lesser Canada Goose is, confusingly, often applied to B. hutchinsii.

This species is 90-100 cm long with a 160-175 cm wing span. Males weigh 3.5–6.5 kg, (8–14 pounds), and can be very aggressive in defending territory. The female looks virtually identical but is slightly lighter at 3–5.5 kg (7–12 pounds), and has a different honk. Exceptionally, weights of 11.3 kg (25 pounds) and a wingspan of 224 cm (88 inches) have been recorded in the largest race.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bufflehead – Bucephala albeola

General: The Bufflehead is the smallest North American diving duck. As of 2010 their population is steady.
The Bufflehead nests in holes excavated by by other birds and often time by Northern Flickers
Bufflehead eggs are creamy-buff colored. The chicks hatch in approximately 29 – 31 days and fledge in 50 50 days.

Many Buffleheads are taken by hunters incidentally by hunters. These birds have a dark meat that can be strong tasting.

Identification: Adult Bufflehead are approximately 13″ – 16″ long with a wingspan of 24″.
Male Buffleheads are black and white, with iridescent green and purple heads with a large white patch behind the eye.
Females are grey-toned with a smaller white patch behind the eye and a light underside

Habitat: Breeds along freshwater ponds, slow rivers and small lakes. The picture was taken of a Bufflehead on the Mohawk River just outside of Schenectady, NY.

Territory: Buffleheads breed in much of Alaska, Canada and the Northwestern USA. Ninety percent of the population is believed to breed from Manitoba westward. When Buffleheads migrate they winter in coastal waters or open inland waters on the either coast of North America and the southern United States into Mexico.

Diet: The Bufflehead’s diet consists largely of fish and invertibrates with a lesser amount of plant material.

American Widgeon – Anas americana

General: The American Widgeon is sometimes called a “Baldpate” because the white stripe resembles a bald man’s head. The population declined in the 1980’s as a result of drought. Since then they have steadily increased in numbers.
American Widgeon - Anas americanaThe American Widgeon builds its nest near water. The eggs are creamy white. The chicks hatch in 23-25 days and fledge in 37-48 days.
This bird is known to wait at the surface and steal vegetation from diving ducks as they surface.
Hunters enjoy hunting this dabbling duck, its meat is considered excellent.

Identification: The Widgeon is a decent sized bird roughly 18″ – 23″ with a wingspan of 34″.

The American Widgeon drake has a deep green streak running from its eye to the back of its head. The top of its head is white. its lower face and neck are streaked gray. The back, side and chest are pinkish-brown. In flight the male displays white shoulder patches.

Female and Juveniles: Head appears grayish overall, with finely-blended white and dusky streaks. Breast and flanks are pale reddish-brown; mantle is grayish-brown with some buff barring. Bill is small and grayish, with a black tip.

American Widgeon - Anas americanaThe American Widgeon is larger than a teal but smaller than a pintail, it’s a medium-size bird, In silhouette, the widgeon can be distinguished from other dabblers by its round head, short neck, and small bill

Habitat: American Widgeons can be found near and on marshes, ponds and shallow lakes. The Pictures here were taken in Spring during their migration north on the Mohawk River in Central New York. They had been feeding in a mowed corn field along with Mallards and Canada Geese,

Territory: Summers throughout most of Canada, Alaska, and the northern third of the United States. Winters along the North American coasts, the southern third of the United States, and Central America.

Diet: American Widgeons eat mostly aquatic plants, upland grasses and legumes. They also eat some insects and mollusks. The American Widgeon’s eats more vegetation than other dabbling ducks.

Lesser Scaup – Aythya affinis

General: Lesser Scaup are often hard to distinguish from the Greater Scaup when viewed at a distance and when a large scaup flock is encountered it will often have both species present. Although the Lesser Scaup has Lesser Scaupthe largest population of any species of diving duck in North America, their population has been steadily declining since the mid-1980s

The eggs of the Lesser Scaup are olive colored. The chicks hatch in about 21-28 days and they fledge in about 45-50 days. Lesser Scaup chicks are capable of diving under water on their hatching day, but they are too buoyant to stay under for more than just a moment.

The meat of the Lesser Scaup should be considered good. It is one of the better eating diving ducks.

Identification: Male: Lesser Scaup are about 12″ long with a wingspan of 29″. The have a glossy black head with a purple cast (Greater Scaup’s head has a more green cast). The neck, breast and upper mantle are glossy black. Vermiculations on the sides and flanks are olive brown and contrast with the white chest and belly. The back is light gray with broad heavy vermiculations of sooty black. The tail, upper and under-tail coverts are black. The wing has a white speculum and the inner primaries are light brown, becoming darker towards the tips and outer primaries. The bill is a light blue-gray with a black tip, the legs and feet are gray and the iris is yellow.

Female: Lesser Scaup has a brownish head, neck and chest. A white ring circles the base of the bill. The back, rump are dark brown and the speculum is white. The bill is similar to that of the male but slightly duller, the legs and feet are gray and the iris is yellow.

Lesser Scaup nest near prairie marshes, ponds, lakes and slow rivers, In winter range the can be found on coastal bays and larger lakes

Territory: The Lesser Scaup breeds from interior Alaska and Northern Canada to the prairie states and east. They migrate south to British Columbia and Massachusetts south to the Gulf states and South America.

Diet: Lesser Scaup feed on seeds of pondweeds, wigeon grass, wild rice, sedges and bulrushes. They also feed on crustaceans, mollusks, aquatic insects and small fish.