Earthy Elegance: A Guide to Ducks with Brown Heads



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Did you know that some duck species have brown heads? It’s true, and ducks with brown heads are some of the most captivating and interesting birds you can spot in the wild.

Ducks with brown heads come in various shapes and sizes and can be found in different habitats depending on the species. Whether you live near a pond, river, or lake, it’s always exciting to spot these beautiful waterfowl swimming or foraging for food along the shore.

In this article, we’ll look closely at these remarkable ducks with brown heads!



Mallards are the most common ducks in wetlands across the northern hemisphere.

  • Mallards are large, common ducks found in wetlands, towns, and isolated rivers.
  • Mallards have blue wing patches and thin white collar.
  • The female mallard is known for its quaking sounds.

The Mallard is a large, common dabbling duck widespread in all types of wetlands, from towns to isolated rivers. They can also be found in urban parks.

Male Mallards in breeding plumage have a grey body and an bright green head separated by a white collar. The back is dark grey, while the underparts are purple-brown and pale brownish-white. The bill is olive to yellow, and the legs and feet are orange.

During eclipse, the male resembles the female ducks with a greenish-yellow bill. Eclipse plumage is different to distinguish from the usual female plumage.

Female Mallards have brown plumage with a blue speculum bordered by white bands and a grey bill with an orange tinge and orange feet.

Mallards are found in the northern hemisphere, except in tundra, high mountains, and deserts. They have been introduced in Australia and New Zealand. Some populations can migrate south after the breeding season, but they may remain resident if food is abundant.

Mallards are omnivorous and feed in groups on aquatic vegetation, invertebrates, and sometimes amphibians and fish. They may also graze on the land and gather in large flocks outside the breeding season.

Mallards frequently breed with other duck species such as with the ring-necked duck, Harlequin duck, mottled duck and the ruddy duck. Many domestic duck breeds are closely related to the mallard.



The gadwall (Mareca strepera) is a duck found in many parts of the world.

  • Gadwalls are migratory birds.
  • These birds live in various wetland habitats.
  • Some birds live in city parks and ponds.

The male is larger than the female and has a black bill or dark bill, grey body with a black rear end and light chestnut wings. In the non-breeding season, the male looks similar to the female but has a lighter grey body and a dark orange-edged bill. The female has a light brown body and is smaller than the male.

The gadwall is a migratory species across much of North America, Europe, and Asia. It is common in the US, Canada, and Mexico and can also be found in Central America, the Caribbean, and South America. During winter, its range includes the US, Mexico, Central America, and South America.

The gadwall is an adaptable species and can be found in various habitats, including wetlands, lakes, ponds, rivers, and marshes. It is a common species in agricultural areas and can also be found in urban parks and ponds.

The gadwall is not a very social duck and usually forms small flocks. It feeds on plants by diving or dabbling in the water and can also steal food from other diving birds. The Gadwall nests on the ground, often away from the water.

American Wigeon

American Wigeon

The American wigeon (Mareca Americana) is a medium-sized waterfowl with a large population range extending from North America to South America, Hawaii and the West Indies.

  • Males have a light head with a green bar behind each eye.
  • Inhabits shallow waters
  • Feeds primarily on plants

It has a greyish-brown upper part with contrasting white wing coverts and a green-and-black speculum in breeding plumage. The underparts are pinkish brown, white on the breast and flanks, and black on the under tail-coverts and vent.

The bill is pale, bluish-grey with a black tip, and the eyes are brown, surrounded by a dark area. The legs and feet are blue-grey to dark grey.

The female is mottled brown with whitish shoulder patches and a dark grey-brown tail with white edges to rectrices.

The American wigeon frequents shallow freshwater wetlands when breeding. During winter, it can be seen in sheltered bays, estuaries, freshwater lakes, rivers and marshes, and may also visit saltmarshes and brackish coastal lagoons.

It feeds mainly on plant material, eating parts of aquatic plants and agricultural crops, and takes insects, mollusks and crustaceans during the breeding season. It can steal food from other birds as soon as they reach the surface and often joins groups of diving birds.

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintails are common ducks found in parts of North America and feed on aquatic plants, worms, crustaceans, and grains, and breed in wetlands and grasslands.

  • Males have gray bodies and a chestnut head.
  • They eat aquatic plants, worms, snails, crustaceans, insects, and grains.
  • During breeding season, they use wetlands, meadows, grasslands, and crop fields.

Northern Pintails are a type of duck that is common in the prairie pothole region of the Great Plains, Canada, and Alaska.

It is easily recognizable by its slender neck, long pointed tail, and white stripe down its chocolate-brown head and a green patch on the wings.

They feed on aquatic plants, worms, snails, crustaceans, aquatic insects, and grains such as rice, wheat, corn, and barley.

During the nonbreeding season they use flooded and dry agricultural fields, lakes, reservoirs, estuaries, saltmarshes, freshwater and brackish wetlands, and bays.

Breeding males and females breed in seasonal wetlands, open areas with short vegetation, wet meadows, grasslands, and crop fields. Females incubate the 8-12 eggs for 24-30 days and look after the young until they are able to fly.

Green-winged Teal

Green-winged Teal

The green-winged teal is a small, dabbling duck found in shallow wetlands across North America.

  • The Green-winged Teal is the smallest dabbling duck in North America, with a cinnamon-colored head and a green ear patch.
  • They breed mainly in northern rivers and nest in grasslands, beaver ponds, and other wetlands.
  • They forage for invertebrates and seeds in shallow wetlands, mudflats, and agricultural fields.

The green-winged teal is the smallest dabbling duck in North America.

Unlike the male blue-winged teal which has a white crescent and brown breast, male green-winged teals have a reddish brown head with a gleaming green stripe from the eye to the back of the head. Females are grayish-brown with a white patch on the face. Both sexes have a deep-green wing patch (specula) when in flight.

Green-winged teals are found in shallow ponds, flooded fields, and northern rivers. During winter, flocks can reach up to 50,000. They prefer grasslands, sedge meadows, beaver ponds, streams, lakes, and human-made wetlands for nesting.

These dabbling ducks feed mainly on aquatic invertebrates and seeds, such as sedge fruit, pondweeds, grasses, and agricultural crops. Animal prey includes midges, tadpoles, mollusks, and crustaceans. Chicks up to 2 weeks old eat mainly insect larvae.



The bufflehead is a small, colorful diving duck with a large head.

  • It is a small sea duck.
  • They migrate to North America and the Great Lakes and are rarely seen in Europe.
  • This elegant duck mainly eats insects, crustaceans, and mollusks.

The bufflehead is a small sea duck with a black and white appearance and a buff head or rounded head. Male buffleheads have colorful heads with green and purple colors and a large white patch behind the eye. Female buffleheads are grey with a smaller white patch and a light underside.

Buffleheads live in wooded lakes and ponds in Alaska and Canada during the breeding season and winter in protected coastal waters and open inland waters on the east and west coasts of North America and the southern United States. They are rare in western Europe.

Buffleheads can continuously dive to search for food, mainly insects, crustaceans, and mollusks. They are punctual migrants and arrive on their wintering grounds within a short time.

White-cheeked Pintail

White-cheeked Pintail

The white-cheeked pintail is a medium-sized dabbling duck.

  • The White-cheeked Pintail is a duck found in the Caribbean, Central America, and northern South America.
  • Males have a green head, chestnut breast, and white belly, and a long, narrow tail. Females are brown with dull plumage.
  • This bird is adaptable and can be found in many habitats, such as marshes, mangroves, and agricultural areas, and eats various foods like seeds, plants, and insects.

The white-cheeked pintail (Anas bahamensis) is a dabbling duck native to the Caribbean, Central America, and northern South America.

This striking bird species is distinguishable by its distinctive white cheek patch and long, narrow tail, giving it its common name.

The male white-cheeked pintail is particularly striking, with its green head, chestnut breast, white belly, and long, narrow tail feathers, which are often curled upwards in a dramatic fashion.

The female white-cheeked pintail is much more understated, with a dull brown plumage that camouflages her as she nests on the ground. She is equipped with excellent eyesight, which allows her to keep a watchful eye on her young and to escape danger if necessary quickly. Her brown plumage is also effective in blending in with her surroundings, making it difficult for predators to locate her and her offspring.

The white-cheeked pintail is a highly adaptable bird species found in many habitats, including freshwater marshes, mangroves, and coastal lagoons. They are also frequently seen in agricultural areas, such as rice paddies, and are known to feed on various food items, including seeds, aquatic plants, and insects.



The redhead duck is a medium-sized diving duck found across North America that primarily inhabits shallow wetlands, marshes, and ponds.

  • Males have red heads, black necks, and blue bills.
  • Widespread population range.
  • Habitat is aquatic, and diet is varied.

The redhead (Aythya americana) is a species of duck that is native to North America.

The adult male redhead has a stunning appearance, with a brilliant red head, black neck, and bright blue bill. It has a gray body with white feathers on the underbelly, while his wings have a light-gray and white pattern.

In contrast, the female redheads are much more subdued, with a brown head, neck, back, and cream-colored underbelly. Her bill is a pale blue, and her eyes are a dark brown.

These diving ducks have an extensive population range, widely distributed throughout North America. In the breeding season, they can be found as far north as the Arctic Circle and south as the Gulf of Mexico. In the winter, they migrate to the southern and coastal regions of the United States and Mexico, as well as to Central America.

Redheads live primarily in aquatic habitats, with a preference for shallow, marshy areas and large bodies of water, such as lakes and rivers. They are also commonly found in flooded agricultural fields and in coastal estuaries.

Redheads feed on aquatic plants and animals, including algae, small invertebrates, and mollusks. They also feed on the seeds of water-loving plants and grasses. In the winter, their diet becomes more limited, focusing on waste grain and other seeds found in agricultural fields.

White-Winged Scoter

White-Winged Scoter

The white-winged scoter is a sea duck of North America and Eurasia, known for its striking black and white plumage and distinctive call.

  • North American sea duck with white wing patch.
  • Breeds in Alaska and northern Canada, migrates south in winter.
  • Primarily mollusk eaters, prefers coast habitats.

The White-winged Scoter (Melanitta deglandi) is a type of sea duck found in North America and is known for its distinctive white patch on the wings, which are visible in flight. These birds are part of the genus Melanitta, which also includes other scoter species like the Surf Scoter and Black Scoter.

Male White-winged Scoters are easily recognizable due to their striking black plumage and white wing patch. They have a large, round head with a prominent knob on top, a large bill that is dark in color, and a small, inconspicuous eye. They have stocky, robust body that is well-suited for swimming and diving.

Female White-winged Scoters are slightly more subdued in appearance than males but are still easily recognizable. They have a mottled brown plumage with a slightly lighter underbelly and a large bill similar in color to the male. They have a similar body shape to the males but are generally a little smaller in size.

The White-winged Scoter has a large population range across North America, from Alaska and Canada to the eastern seaboard of the United States. The species breeds in Alaska and northern Canada and migrates south in the winter to the United States and Mexico coasts. The largest population of White-winged Scoters can be found in the Great Lakes region, where they are a common sight during the winter months.

White-winged Scoters are primarily found in coastal habitats, such as bays, estuaries, and sheltered lagoons. They also frequent freshwater lakes and rivers during the breeding season. They are strong swimmers and divers and are well-adapted to life in the water. They are most commonly seen in areas with plenty of open water and an abundance of food.

The White-winged Scoter is primarily a mollusk eater and feeds on clams, mussels, and snails. They are known for their ability to dive deep underwater to find their food and are often seen swimming and diving in search of a meal. They may also feed on insects and aquatic plants during the breeding season.

Common Goldeneye

Common Goldeneye

The Common Goldeneye is a species of duck found in the Northern Hemisphere, with a range that spans across North America and Eurasia.

  • Males have a dark green head with a white patch, and females have a brown head and neck with a white patch.
  • They breed in boreal forests and are found in North America, Europe, and Asia.
  • They feed on fish eggs, crustaceans, insects, plankton, and other aquatic organisms.

The Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) is a striking waterbird with a unique and distinctive appearance. They are a species of duck found in the Northern Hemisphere, with a range across North America and Eurasia. In this article, we will take a closer look at the physical appearance of the male and female, the population range and distribution, habitat and diet of the Common Goldeneye.

The male Common Goldeneye is known for its striking appearance, with a gleaming greenish-yellow eye that gives the species its name. These large diving ducks have green heads with a round white patch on the cheek and an iridescent greenish-black back.

The male also has a large, round white belly and a black bill with yellow tip. Their wings are dark with a white patch, and their legs and feet are black. The male is larger than the female, measuring about 17 to 21 inches in length and weighing between 2 and 2.5 pounds.

The female Common Goldeneye is more understated in comparison, with a brown head and neck, a white cheek patch, and a brownish-black back. The female also has a white neck collar, round white belly and a brown tail. Her wings are brown with white markings, and her legs and feet are brown. The female measures about 16 to 19 inches and weighs between 1.5 and 2 pounds.

The Common Goldeneye breeds in the boreal forests of North America and Eurasia, and they are known to migrate in the winter to coastal and inland waterways. They are found throughout much of Canada and the United States and in the northern regions of Europe and Asia. The Common Goldeneye is considered a common species, with a population of approximately one million birds.

The Common Goldeneye is a bird of freshwater and saltwater environments, including lakes, rivers, and coastal waterways. They breed in boreal forests, where they prefer shallow, clear lakes surrounded by trees. In the winter, they can be found in open waters, including bays and estuaries.

The Common Goldeneye feeds mainly on small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks, diving to the bottom of waterways to find food. They feed in shallow waters, diving to depths of up to 60 feet to find food. They also feed on insects, plankton, and other aquatic plants and animals.

Red Breasted Merganser

Red Breasted Merganser

The Red-breasted Merganser is a medium-sized duck with a distinctive black-and-white plumage and a red bill.

  • Found in North America, Eurasia, and prefers freshwater-marine habitats.
  • Diet includes fish, crustaceans, mollusks, mammals, and insects.
  • Good at diving to capture prey.

The Red-breasted Merganser is a medium-sized duck known for its distinctive appearance and impressive diving abilities. They are found in various regions of North America and Eurasia, and their habitat and diet play an essential role in their survival.

Starting with the physical appearance of the male and female, the male Red-breasted Merganser is an impressive sight with its striking, black-and-white plumage.

The head is black, with a distinctive crest that it can raise or lower. The neck, breast, and back are white, while the wings are a striking black and white pattern.

The male has a red bill, which is narrow and serrated, and its eyes are a vivid yellow. The female is more understated, with a brown head and neck, a white throat and breast, and a brown back. Both sexes have slender bodies and long, narrow tails that give them a sleek and aerodynamic look.

Red-breasted Mergansers are found in various regions of North America and Eurasia. During the breeding season, they are found in northern areas, including Canada, Alaska, and the northern United States.

During the winter, they can be found further south, including the United States and Mexico. In Eurasia, they are found in countries including Russia, Scandinavia, and the United Kingdom.

Red-breasted Mergansers prefer areas with a mix of freshwater and marine environments. During the breeding season, they are found near rivers, lakes, and wetlands, and during the winter months, they can be found near the coast, in estuaries, and bays with many other sea ducks.

Red-breasted mergansers eat small aquatic animals, including fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. They are excellent divers and can plunge into the water to capture their prey, and they are also known to feed on small mammals and insects, especially during the breeding season.

Red-breasted Mergansers breed in boreal forests throughout most of North America, including many inland lakes.

Key Takeaways

  • Ducks with chestnut brown heads come in various shapes and sizes, and can be found in different habitats depending on the species.
  • Mallards are large, common ducks found in wetlands across the northern hemisphere.
  • The gadwall is a migratory duck that frequents shallow freshwater wetlands when breeding.

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