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Waterfowl - Ducks, Geese, Brant, Swans

Updated on December 10, 2016

Ducks, Geese, Brant, Swans

This page has information on waterfowl of North America, including ducks, geese, brant and swans.

North American ducks include mallards, black ducks, green-winged teal, American widgeon, gadwall, pintail, wood ducks, canvasbacks, scaup, redheads, ring-necked ducks, ruddy ducks, bufflehead, shovelers, goldeneye, mergansers, old squaw, scoters and others.

North American geese, brant and swans include trumpeter swans, snow geese, Canada geese and Atlantic brant.

Most waterfowl migrate across the continent along four major routes - the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central and Pacific Flyways.

pintail drake duck
pintail drake duck

Pintail Ducks

Pintails are found throughout much of North America. These regal birds are related to mallards, black ducks and teal. They have long necks and long stiff tail feathers.

redhead drake duck
redhead drake duck

Redhead Ducks

The redhead, a diving duck is another beautiful migrant of the Atlantic Flyway.

Once hunted until their numbers were dangerously low, these stunning ducks have rebounded in numbers.

In recent years, North American populations of redheads have been as high as 1 million birds.

Shoveler Duck photo
Shoveler Duck photo

Shoveler Ducks

Shoveler ducks are identified by their unique shovel shaped bill. They feed by swinging their bill from side to side while straining food from the water.

Male shovelers are marked with green, white, black, and chestnut.

Wood Ducks

Wood duck drakes are one of the most beautiful of all birds. The wood duck is the only North American member of the group of ducks called perching ducks.

Wood ducks are found in wooded river bottoms, flooded hardwood forests, potholes and lakes. These unique ducks nest throughout the United States and southeastern Canada.

Wood ducks winter in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, California and other southern states. Wood ducks eat acorns, weed seeds, berries, insects, and plants.


Virginia is one of the premier bird watching states in the mid-Atlantic region of the USA. Virginia has a wide variety of environments and is visited by several species of ducks, geese and swans.

In some wildlife refuges, geese and swans take up residence year round. Other full time residents include black ducks, wood ducks and mallards which raise their young on the marshes of Chincoteague Island, Wallops Island, and much of the Chesapeake.

As autumn arrives, ducks and geese migrate into the refuges and surrounding areas of Virginia. Shoveler ducks, pintails, mallards, widgeons, teal, ruddy ducks, canvasbacks, redheads, ring necked ducks, bluebills, and others fly in.

Mergansers, buffleheads, goldeneyes and other diving ducks show up in the bay waters as cold weather sets in. Off the coast, rafts of sea ducks and small groups of long tailed ducks forage along the shoals over the winter.

National Waterfowl Week at Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge

Bird watchers, photographers and nature lovers pour into Virginia during National Waterfowl Week at Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge. Chincoteague and Assateague Islands are along the Atlantic flyway, on the eastern shore of Virginia.

The islands are popular summer vacation spots, but are year round attractions for bird watchers and nature lovers. Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge, Assateague National Seashore and Chincoteague Island are located within a few hours of Baltimore Maryland, Washington DC, and Hampton Roads Virginia.

The annual event is extremely popular among birders and travelers to the area. The star attractions are the snow geese, which arrive by the thousands just in time for the event.

Visitors drive, bike or walk onto the wildlife loop, where a road encircles a large lagoon. Vehicles are quickly abandoned as camera tripods go up, and families find the trumpeting and antics of the geese too irresistible to remain inside.

During the late fall the refuge is also visited by Canadian geese, swans, brant, ducks, herons, egrets, oyster catchers, loons, grebes, plovers and other birds. Much of the waterfowl remain at Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge throughout the winter.

Photographers take pictures by the hundreds during this dramatic event. The refuge layout allows photographers of all skill levels to have an opportunity to capture wildlife on film or digital media.

The snow geese and many of the visiting ducks migrate north in early spring. A few ducks and a sizeable population of Canada geese remain and raise young on the island.

Other year round residents include egrets and herons which occupy every stretch of canal, pond and marsh.

In addition to the wildlife loop, naturalists can spot birds and other wildlife along the beaches, around the hiking trails. The island has a nice array of sites to see and photograph in addition to waterfowl.

brant geese
brant geese

What are Brant?

Brant are small geese that are found along both coastlines of North America. Brant breed in the high Arctic tundra, migrating southward along both coasts in winter. Brant along the Atlantic have light gray bellies, while those off the Pacific Coast have black bellies. Birds with either coloration are considered to be the same species.

Groups of geese are called a variety of names including blizzard, chevron, knot, plump, and string of geese.

Waterfowl of the Atlantic Flyway

The Atlantic flyway is known as a migration path for dozens of species of ducks, geese, waterfowl and shorebirds. The following list includes some of the more common waterfowl found along the flyway:

Mallard Duck

Black Duck

Green-winged Teal

American Widgeon

Gadwall

Pintail

Greater Scaup

Redhead

Ring-necked Duck

Ruddy Duck

Bufflehead

Lesser Scaup

Shoveler

Lesser Snow Goose

Common Goldeneye

Common Merganser

Hooded Merganser

Red-breasted merganser

Old Squaw

Black Scoter

White-winged Scoter

Surf Scoter

Tundra Swan

Canada Goose

Greater Snow Goose

Atlantic Brant

Waterfowl Poll

Which North American duck or goose do you think is the most beautiful?

See results

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    • Andy-Po profile image

      Andy 8 years ago from London, England

      Welcome to the Wildlife Photography Group

    • KarenHC profile image

      Karen 7 years ago from U.S.

      I'd love to visit Chincoteague and Assateague areas for watching the waterfowl. A number of the birds on your list "Waterfowl of the Atlantic Flyway" also come through the midwest area, but not all.

    • LoKackl profile image

      LoKackl 6 years ago

      I no longer see the little family of ducks on a pond near where I live since the pond has dried in the past two years. Two years. That's all it took. Lovely photos. Blessed.

    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 6 years ago from Canada

      I love watching the birds over at our local bird sanctuary. Loved your lens.

    • WebIsFun profile image

      WebIsFun 6 years ago

      I love going to the park and feeding the ducks. I'm a kid at heart who loves birds

    • profile image

      livingfrontiers 6 years ago

      Beautiful pictures and lots of information! great lens...

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      Lovely lens! I did feature it in Why I Won't Eat Goose for Christmas

    • Tyla MacAllister profile image

      Tyla MacAllister 6 years ago

      I live on a lake in the Deep south so I get to observe many ducks and geese on a daily basis. I would love to take some birdwatching trips so I can view and photograph even more types of waterfowl.

      *Squidangel blessings for this informative and beautiful lens.*

    • profile image

      Craftybegonia 6 years ago

      Beautiful lens! I used to live in Washington State and we enjoy mallards and Canada geese every year. Once we got a snow goose.

    • annieangel1 profile image

      Ann 6 years ago from Yorkshire, England

      wildfowl are my passion - I loved your lens (except the hunting bit ) Angel blessed

    • JeanJohnson LM profile image

      JeanJohnson LM 6 years ago

      I enjoyed the pictures on your page.

    • profile image

      setismom 6 years ago

      Enjoyed the many photos of ducks I have spotted and those I haven't seen yet! Good lens!

    • profile image

      pawpaw911 6 years ago

      Great Photos. Nice lens.

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