It’s not just a male Mallard duck that has a green head; there are more ducks with green heads that you may have spotted.
Male ducks are called drakes and they often have a much more colorful appearance than female ducks in northern species. The male will molt after the breeding season and become similar to the female, called the eclipse plumage.
This will happen after nesting and then they will molt again to get their breeding colors in the winter.
Ducks have such colorful and interesting patterns and shapes. Even ducks’ feet can be bright orange or blue.
These ducks with green heads migrate and spend the summer breeding further north, such as in Canada and the winters further south. All except the Mallard, which does not usually migrate.
So if you don’t know what that duck with a green head is, take a look at this guide and find out.
1. Mallard Male
Mallards are large ducks with green heads on the males. They have bright yellow bills and gray bodies with brown breasts and black towards the tail. They have a curl of tail feathers and a blue patch on the wings bordered with white which is called a speculum.
Females and juveniles are mottled brown with orange bills, but they still have the blue speculum.
- Scientific Name: Anas platyrhynchos
- Length: 19.7-25.6 in (50-65 cm)
- Weight: 35.3-45.9 oz (1000-1300 g)
- Wingspan: 32.3-37.4 in (82-95 cm)
Mallards remain all year in most of the lower 48 and the western coast of Canada and Alaska. Those that breed in Canada and Alaska head south to the southern United States and northern Mexico.
Mallards are one of the most commonly spotted and recognizable ducks that will happily be fed on ponds and rivers. They are dabbling ducks that feed on the water plants and do not dive.
Male Mallards don’t quack only the female does. The male makes a rasping sound.
Most domesticated ducks come from Mallards and they have been hunted and bred for food.
Mallards are very long-lived and they have been recorded at 27 years old.
2. Common Goldeneye Male
Common Goldeneye males are ducks with green heads that are iridescent and can look almost black. They have a white spot under their yellow eyes. They have white bodies and sides and black backs.
Female Common Goldeneyes are grayish-brown with brown heads. Both males and females have black bills.
- Scientific Name: Bucephala clangula
- Length: 15.8-20.1 in (40-51 cm)
- Weight: 21.2-45.9 oz (600-1300 g)
- Wingspan: 30.3-32.7 in (77-83 cm)
Common Goldeneye breed in Canada and Alaska in summer and migrate late to the lower 48 for winter.
They nest in holes in trees and use whatever is in there, plus some plucked down feathers for the nesting material.
Common Goldeneye are diving ducks that feed on crabs, shrimp, crayfish, fish, fish eggs and insects.
3. Greater Scaup Male
Greater Scaup males are ducks with iridescent dark green heads with blue bills, gray backs and white sides. Females are brown with a white patch above the bill.
They look very similar to Lesser Scaup except but with rounder heads.
- Scientific Name: Aythya marila
- Length: 15.3-22.1 in (39-56 cm)
- Weight: 25.6-48.0 oz (726-1360 g)
- Wingspan: 28.4-31.1 in (72-79 cm)
Greater Scaup breed in the north of Canada and in Alaska before migrating to the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts for winter, but more on the Atlantic side. They form huge ‘rafts’ of birds out at sea.
These are diving ducks that eat invertebrates and plants at the bottom of lakes and the sea.
Greater Scaup nest on the ground and add grass and down feathers to a small depression.
4. American Wigeon Male
American Wigeon are small ducks with green stripes on the sides of their heads and with white caps on the males. The rest of them are grayish-brown.
Females are brown with grayish-brown heads. Male and females have pale beaks.
- Scientific Name: Mareca americana
- Length: 16.5-23.2 in (42-59 cm)
- Weight: 19.1-46.9 oz (540-1330 g)
- Wingspan: 33.1 in (84 cm)
American Wigeon breed predominantly in Alaska, western Canada and between the Rockies and the Midwest. They spend the winter in the southern US states and along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.
They breed on the ground far from water in fields and grasslands. American Wigeon are dabbling ducks that feed on vegetation both in the war and on the land. They will also eat insects and invertebrates.
5. Green-winged Teal Male
Green-winged Teal are small dabbling ducks with a green stripe along the sides of their heads in the males. The rest of their heads are brown and they have grayish bodies.
Females are brown with a yellow streak along the tail. Both males and females have a green wing patch.
- Scientific Name: Anas crecca
- Length: 12.2-15.3 in (31-39 cm)
- Weight: 4.9-17.6 oz (140-500 g)
- Wingspan: 20.5-23.2 in (52-59 cm)
Most Green-winged Teal migrate from breeding grounds in Alaska, Canada and the northern US States to the southern US States and the Pacific Coast from British Columbia Down. Some ducks remain around the Rocky Mountains all year.
Green-winged Teal are dabbling ducks that feed on invertebrates and seeds. Their nests are on the ground in dense cover such as grass or thickets.
They can often be spotted on flooded ground and shallow ponds in large flocks of up to 50 thousand.
6. Northern Shoveler Male
Northern Shoveler males are ducks with green heads and large spoon-shaped black beaks that make them easy to spot dabbling ducks. They have reddish-brown sides, white chests and black backs. Males also have blue patches on the wings.
Females are mottled brown with a blue shoulder patch and large orange beaks.
- Scientific Name: Spatula clypeata
- Length: 17.3-20.1 in (44-51 cm)
- Weight: 14.1-28.9 oz (400-820 g)
- Wingspan: 27.2-33.1 in (69-84 cm)
Northern Shovelers spend the winter in the southern half of the US and along the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts up to Canada. They migrate to the western half of Canada and northwestern US states for breeding in the summer. Some also breed around the Great Lakes.
They can often be found in sociable groups in shallow, stagnant water.
Crustaceans, invertebrates and some seeds make up the diet of shovelers and they filter them out by stirring up the bottom and swinging their bills from side to side through the water. They then push the water out through comblike projections called lamellae along the edge of their bills, catching any food.
Northern Shovelers nest on the ground in short vegetation close to water.
7. Wood Duck Male
Male Wood Ducks with beautiful green heads with a striking crest at the back with black and white markings and red eyes. They really are birds with great hairdos.
Their bodies are a checkerboard of colors, with reddish-brown chests, buff sides, brown backs and tails, white markings and flashes of blue.
Females are brown with grayish-brown heads and white around their dark eyes. They have blue patches called speculum in their wings.
- Scientific Name: Aix sponsa
- Length: 18.5-21.3 in (47-54 cm)
- Weight: 16.0-30.4 oz (454-862 g)
- Wingspan: 26.0-28.7 in (66-73 cm)
Wood Ducks are residents of eastern US states and along the Pacific Coast and parts of the northwest. Wood Ducks that breed in the north along the border with Canada then migrate for winter to southern US states and Mexico.
Wood Ducks eat seeds, fruit and insects, usually in the water, but they will also feed on land in fields and forests. They can be found in wooded swamps.
Tree cavities form nesting sites for Wood Ducks, and they prefer trees near water.