Ducks

Oregon has several species of duck, including both dabblers and divers. They can be found from the saltwater of the coast to the far eastern ponds.

Flying duck

Types of Ducks

American Wigeon

American wigeon

Features: Both males and females have a bluish bill with a black tip. Drakes are white on the top of the head, green eye stripes, purplish breast and flanks, white belly and wing covert patch, and have an iridescent black/green speculum. The grayish hen shows white on the wing covert patch.

Habitat: An abundant overwintering duck, especially in the Willamette Valley and coastal areas. Prefer shallow habitats like wet meadows or marshes where, like geese, they feed on green grass and sedges.

Techniques: These ducks are early migrants (September) but can be common in mixed duck bags throughout the season. They respond to both whistles and mallard calls.

A canvasback duck swims away from the photographer

Canvasback

Features: Drakes have a reddish head and neck; black breast, lower back and tail coverts; nearly white back, flank, and belly, and dark gray tail. The hen is grayish brown with a darker brown head, neck, breast and tail coverts.

Canvasbacks are large; adults in good condition are as heavy as mallards and second in size only to the white-winged scoter among common Oregon ducks.

Habitat: Brackish estuarine bays and marshes with abundant submerged aquatic vegetation and invertebrates are ideal wintering habitat for canvasbacks.

Techniques: Generally part of a mixed duck bag. These ducks have a reputation as good table fare, especially those from non-coastal areas.

A Eurasian wigeon duck swims by

Eurasian Wigeon

Features: Drakes are easily distinguished from American wigeon drakes by a reddish brown head, gray flank, and lack of green eye stripe. Hens are similar to American wigeon hens and difficult to distinguish.

The call of the male is a shrill whistling, whe'e you; the female's voice a low purr or croak.

It is a rare to uncommon visitant east of the Cascades.

Gadwall drake

Gadwall

Features: Adult drakes have a black bill, buff head, gray body, and black upper and lower tail coverts. Hens are nondescript brown ducks with a spotted, yellowish-orange bill with black edges. Unique among dabbling ducks, the gadwall has a partly white speculum (rear part of the wing) that can be seen when the bird is in flight.

Habitat: Submerged aquatic vegetation makes up the majority of the gadwall's diet. As a result, they are often found feeding far from the shoreline, in deeper water than most other dabbling ducks. Can be abundant is eastern Oregon early in the season, but most will continue migrating to California as the season progresses.

Techniques: Generally taken as part of a general bag. The female’s quacking is similar to a mallard’s but more nasal and higher pitched.

Harlequin drakes

Harlequin duck

Features: Males have glossy, slate-blue plumage accented with white stripes and dots. Females are mottled brown.

Habitat: In the summer these ducks breed on fast water rivers in western Oregon. During winter they can be spotted in rocky intertidal areas along the coast. Larger concentrations of wintering birds are usually seen in Lane, Lincoln and Coos counties.

Techniques: These ducks are extremely rare in the bag. Their winter habitat of rocky intertidal areas are mostly inaccessible to hunters.

two long-tailed ducks swim in a pond surrounded by snow. One of the ducks is taking flight

Long-tailed duck

Features: The winter males' body is mostly white except for a black breast and central back; the wings are dark, scapulars long and gray, and the dark central tail feathers are long and slender. Winter females are darker above with a light head; scapulars and tail feathers are short and dark. Dark areas mark females' heads and males' necks.

Habitat: Long-tailed ducks can show up almost anywhere from the coast (they usually winter off shore) to inland on the Columbia River and on lakes throughout the state.

Techniques: Some long-tailed ducks are taken in Oregon, but not enough to show up in harvest statistics.

Mallard pair

Mallard

Features: During the fall, winter and spring months, males can be quickly identified by their distinctive iridescent green heads. Females are mottled-brown, with a dark brown stripe through each eye, an orange bill with black splotching and have orange legs. Immature ducks resemble adult females until the males develop more colorful plumage in early fall. After breeding season, males develop duller eclipse plumage beginning in June and resemble hens until mid-September. Wings of both sexes have a violet-blue speculum bordered in front and behind by a pronounced white stripe.

Habitat: Mallards are the most common breeding and wintering duck in Oregon, and are widespread throughout the state. They are a puddle or dabbling duck and usually feed by dabbling or dipping rather than submerging. Throughout Oregon, both migrant and resident birds can be found in coastal and inland marshes, lakes and ponds, rivers and agricultural fields.

Techniques: Because of their abundance, mallards are the most commonly harvested duck in Oregon. Hunting techniques often depend on the habitat. In still water ponds, marshes, and along the shore of larger rivers, many hunters set out decoys and call ducks into the decoy spread. In the riparian areas along small rivers and streams, jump shooting can be effective. In the Columbia Basin and eastern Oregon, some mallards are hunted over decoy spreads in cut cornfields. Mallards are noted as excellent table fare.

three northern pintail ducks swimming

Northern pintail

Features: The pintail is an elegant long-necked duck. The long-tailed, full-plumaged drake is striking with a chestnut head, gray back and flanks, bright white breast and front of neck, and iridescent green-bronze speculum. The brown hen is nondescript, but shares the long neck and graceful shape of the drake. Both have a blue-gray bill.

Habitat: Pintails prefer the open habitats of sheet water fields and large marshes or ponds. They are a puddle or dabbling duck and usually feed by dabbling or dipping rather than submerging. It is a rare breeder but an abundant fall migrant statewide and one of the most common wintering visitor ducks in western Oregon.

Techniques: Pintails are early migrants and will keep arriving into November. They respond well to both pintail and mallard calls. Because they are so common in western Oregon, many hunters add pintail decoys to their spreads. Like many dabbling ducks that feed on vegetation, they are good table fare.

There are restricted bag limits for northern pintails because of continentally low population levels.

six northern shoveler drake ducks fly above

Northern shoveler

Features: The other "greenhead", the drake is handsome with a dark iridescent green head, white breast, reddish belly, blue wing patch of coverts, and an iridescent green speculum. Brown hens also have blue wing patches similar to that of the cinnamon and blue-wing teal.

Habitat: This dabbling duck prefers lakes and ponds where it uses its unique bill to sift through water in shallow areas. Food choices include the seeds of sedges, bulrushes and other aquatic plants, duck weed, and algae; also aquatic insects, mollusks and crustaceans. Common winter species in the Willamette Valley and Columbia Basin, but widespread throughout the state.

Techniques: Part of a mixed duck bag, these ducks respond well to decoys. They can be fine table fare despite a bad reputation with many hunters. Particularly tasty are ducks wintering on Lake Abert in southeast Oregon where their diet is brine shrimp and flies.

Redhead duck drake

Redhead

Features: The drake has a red head, black breast and tail coverts, and steel gray back, flanks and tail. Hens are a medium brown. During courtship, the drake utters a very unduck-like meow.

Habitat: This diving duck is a locally common breeding species throughout the marshes of eastern Oregon such as Ladd Marsh, Summer Lake, the Warner Wetlands, and Malheur NWR. Known for nest parasitism, laying eggs in the nests of other birds, usually other diving ducks, redhead eggs have also been found in the nests of a variety of species.

Techniques: The redhead is a very uncommon winter resident in Oregon, most likely to be found early in the season in the marshes of eastern Oregon. Because of this rarity, some hunters consider the redhead a “trophy” duck.

three ring-necked ducks swim across a river

Ring-necked duck

Features: The black back, white crescent on the side just in front of the wing, and white-ringed bill separate the drake ring-neck from the scaups. The brownish neck ring of the male in alternate plumage is not prominent. The hen is a small dark brown duck with a buff face. Drakes in courtship give a head-throw accompanied by a wow note while hens utter a growling purr.

The ring-necked duck can resemble a scaup, so hunters need to know what they are shooting at.

Habitat: These ducks are pretty widespread during the winter months. They generally prefer fresh water, from small wood ponds to large marshes like Summer Lake.

Techniques: Usually taken as part of a general duck bag. They can be pretty good eating.

Wood duck

Wood duck

Features: Wood ducks can not be mistaken. The drake's iridescent chestnut, greens and white patterning are distinctive. The hen has a unique profile and white pattern around the eye.

Habitat: Wood ducks are found in wooded swamps, on rivers and ponds. They feed on mostly seeds, but wood ducks will supplement their diet with aquatic plants, insects and crustaceans too. Acorns, hazelnuts, waste grains, and fallen seeds from trees and shrubs make up a good deal of their diet. As the name implies, they nest in tree cavities near water.

Techniques: Search out a wood duck's food source and wait. Pass shooting is the best strategy. And start early and end late - the best opportunities are at the start and end of shooting hours.