Ducks, Geese & Swans

Common Goldeneye

Look For The common goldeneye is a medium-sized, large-headed diving duck with a spectacular eponymous yellow eye visible even from a considerable distance. Its forehead slopes into its bill, which often is punctuated with a yellow tip. Males are white on the throat, back and flanks, dark above, and have a brilliant green head featuring… Read more

Greater White-fronted Goose

Greater white-fronted geese, photo by Bill Bouton / Wikimedia

Look For The greater white-fronted goose is a medium-sized waterfowl with a plumage that is mostly grayish-brown. It has a variable level of barred black streaks across its belly. It has a white rump and undertail coverts, as well as a white patch on the front of its face. Its bill and legs are a… Read more

Tundra Swan

Tundra swan. Photo by Maga-chan / Wikimedia.

Look For The tundra swan is a large waterfowl that is the most common swan species found in North America. It has a distinctive thick body and a long, elegant neck. Its entire plumage is pure white while its legs, feet, and bill are solid black. It typically, but not always, has a yellow patch… Read more

Hooded Merganser

Learn how to identify the hooded merganser!

Look for Of the three mergansers—ducks with narrow, serrated bills—the hooded merganser is the smallest and has the shortest bill. Both male and female hooded mergansers can be easily identified. The male is in gaudy plumage much of the year. Its head is an odd shape, either extremely round like a raised mushroom when its… Read more


Redhead duck

Look For A medium-sized diving duck named for its deep rust-red head. The male redhead’s black breast contrasts with a pale gray back. His gray bill is tipped in black, and the eyes are yellow. Female is uniformly gray-brown overall with a pale eye-ring and a pale area surrounding the base of the bill. Listen… Read more

American Wigeon

American Wigeon

Look For The white crown stripe of the male American wigeon has earned this species the nickname “baldpate.” This field mark contrasts with the dark eye patch and can be seen from great distances. Both male and female appear round-headed and have a pinkish chest and body. The light blue-gray bill has a black tip… Read more

American Black Duck

American Black Duck

Look For The black duck is a medium-sized dabbling duck with a dark charcoal body. Males and females are very similar, though the male has a yellowish bill while the female’s bill is dull gray. In flight, black ducks show mostly white underwings and mostly dark upperwings. This contrast gives a flashing appearance to their… Read more

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler, male and female

Look For From a distance the northern shoveler looks like a mallard with a big nose. It’s this bird’s large, shovel-like bill that earned it its name. The male has a solid dark green head, large black bill, white chest, and rusty sides. The female is plain light brown overall with a large orange and… Read more

Wood Duck

Wood Duck, male and female, by Olaf Oliviero Riemer

Look for The male wood duck takes its colorful plumage to an extreme. In breeding plumage, it has a green crown and black face offset by white slashes reaching up from its white throat. The bill looks painted, a bright red-orange with black and white touches. Breast and undertail are chestnut, while the sides are… Read more

Ring-necked Duck

The ring-necked duck is one of many Tennessee winter birds.

Closely related and superficially similar to the greater and lesser scaup, this diving bird has a few embellishments that easily set it apart from the scaup. Like the scaup, the male ringneck is blackish—in most light—on head, chest, and back. However, even at a distance, the adult male ring-necked duck has a vertical white comma… Read more

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail

The elegant northern pintail is a sleek, slender bird in flight and on the water. In the breeding season, pintails inhabit nearly the entire portion of northern North America and much of the West. In winter, pintails can be found all along both coasts and almost anywhere wet (ponds, marshes, rivers) in between. Pintails forage… Read more


Mallard pair (female on the top left and male on the lower right). Photo by Richard Bartz / Wikimedia Commons.

Look for The male mallard’s green head and yellow bill are easily recognizable, but female mallards—with their overall dark brown coloration—can be confused with black ducks, mottled ducks, and other female ducks. Look for her orange and black bill. Mallards are fairly large ducks with a 23-inch body length. Listen for Female Mallards give the… Read more

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