Which Ducks in Illinois Can Be Spotted? (Species & Seasons)

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Illinois is a state where you can see a wide range of different duck species. There are dabbling ducks, diving ducks, and sea ducks to be found here. Some reside in this area year-round, some are seen here in summer, and many more are winter residents.

Read on for some detail about some of the ducks you might see when birdwatching in Michigan, and when these ducks are present in this state.

Mallard

Mallard Ducks
  • 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)

The Mallard is perhaps one of the most recognizable of all duck species – recognized even by those without a strong interest in birds, who remember feeding these ducks as a child.

They are year-round residents in Illinois and are recorded in almost a third of all birdwatchers’ checklists for the summer, and over a quarter in the winter months.

Wood Ducks

Wood Ducks
  • 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 can be spotted in Illinois throughout the year too. However, they are spotted far more often in the summer when they appear in 12% of the checklists of birdwatchers from this state.

Blue Winged Teal

Blue-Winged Teal
  • Spatula discors
  • Length: 15 – 17 in (38 – 43 cm)
  • Weight: 19.18 oz (544 g)
  • Wingspan: 23 -31 in (58 – 79 cm)

Blue-winged teal can be seen through the summer in Illinois when they are recorded as having been spotted in 4% of birdwatchers’ checklists.

However, they are the easiest to spot when their numbers increase significantly during the migration periods in spring and fall when they appear on 22% of checklists.

Northern Shovelers

Northern Shovelers
  • 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)

These dabbling ducks are mostly spotted in Illinois during the winter when they are recorded in 2% of state birdwatchers’ checklists.

Though some northern shovelers can be spotted year-round, the very best times to see these birds are during the migration periods from March-April and October-November.

Gadwalls

Gadwalls
  • Mareca strepera
  • Length: 19 – 23 in (48 – 58 cm)
  • Weight: 35.27 oz (1000 g)
  • Wingspan: 31 – 36 in (79 – 91 cm)

Gadwalls are seen most frequently in Illinois during the winter. They tend to arrive in around September and depart by around May. However, a few of these ducks do hang around here year-round, so you might spot one at any time of the year.

Green-Winged Teal

Green-Winged Teal
  • 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)

Green-winged teals occur in 1% of state birdwatchers’ checklists, and you should look out for them in Illinois between August and May.

American Black Ducks

American Black Ducks
  • Anas rubripes
  • Length: 19 – 23 in (48 – 58 cm)
  • Weight: 49.6 oz (1406 g)
  • Wingspan: 33 – 36 in (84 – 91 cm)

Some American black ducks remain in Illinois year-round. But these ducks are most frequently seen in the state between October and April. They are recorded in 3% of winter birdwatching checklists in this area.

American Wigeon

American Wigeon
  • 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)

Another duck that can be spotted in Illinois in winter is the American wigeon. It is recorded in 1% of checklists compiled by birdwatchers in the state and is typically present between September and April.

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail
  • Anas acuta
  • Length: 20 – 26 in (51 – 66 cm)
  • Weight: 36.33 oz (1030 g)
  • Wingspan: 29 – 35 in (74 – 89 cm)

Also recorded in 1% of checklists compiled by birdwatchers in the state, the northern pintail is present in Illinois year-round but is most commonly spotted between August and the middle of April.

Buffleheads

Buffleheads
  • Bucephala albeola
  • Length: 13 – 16 in (33 – 41 cm)
  • Weight: 21.16 oz (600 g)
  • Wingspan: 20 – 24 in (51-61 cm)

Buffleheads can be seen in Illinois year-round and some are spotted sporadically throughout every season.

However, these ducks are typically present during the winter months and appear in 5% of state birdwatchers’ checklists during this time.

Lesser Scaup

Lesser Scaup
  • Aythya affinis
  • Length: 15 – 18 in (38 – 49 cm)
  • Weight: 40.77 oz (1155 g)
  • Wingspan: 24 – 33 in (61– 84 cm)

Recorded in 3% of winter checklists, lesser scaups are present in Illinois through the winter months.

However, the best time to spot them in this state is in March or April, during the spring migration when they appear on 14% of birdwatchers’ checklists.

Ring-Necked Ducks

Ring-necked Ducks
  • Aythya collaris
  • Length: 14 – 18 in (36 – 46 cm)
  • Weight: 32.09 oz (909 g)
  • Wingspan: 24 – 30 in (61 – 76 cm)

These medium-sized ducks can be spotted in Illinois year-round. However, you are most likely to see them in winter, after they arrive in October and before they depart by mid-May.

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Duck
  • Oxyura jamaicensis
  • Length: 14 – 16 in (35.56 – 40.64 cm)
  • Weight: 28.04 oz (795 g)
  • Wingspan: 21 – 24 in (53 – 61 cm)

The ruddy duck can also be seen in Illinois all year, though they are most commonly seen during the winter months when they appear on 2% of birdwatchers’ checklists.

Redheads

Redhead
  • Aythya americana
  • Length: 18 -22 in (46 – 56 cm)
  • Weight: 43.03 oz (1219 g)
  • Wingspan: 29 – 35 in (74 – 89 cm)

Seen here occasionally throughout the year, redheads are usually a feature of winter birdwatching.

They are most commonly seen between October and April and appear on 3% of the checklists of birdwatchers in this state.

Greater Scaup

Greater Scaup
  • 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)

You are most likely to see Greater Scaup between mid-October and April. This duck is featured on 3% of winter birdwatching checklists from Illinois.

Canvasbacks

Canvasbacks
  • Aythya valisineria
  • Length: 19 – 24 in (48 – 61 cm)
  • Weight: 58.48 oz (1657 g)
  • Wingspan: 28 – 36 in (71 – 91 cm)

Noted in around 2% of checklists from Illinois birdwatchers, canvasbacks are present here between October and April each year, commonly seen in large groups out on the waters of Lake Michigan.

Red-Breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser
  • Mergus serrator
  • Length: 16 – 26 in (41 – 66 cm)
  • Weight: 47.61 oz (1349 g)
  • Wingspan: 31 – 35 in (79 – 89 cm)

These ducks spend their winter in Illinois and are recorded in 7% of state birdwatchers’ checklists during this time.

Most sightings occur between October and May, and a few of these ducks may be spotted in the state year-round.

Common Goldeneye

Common Goldeneye
  • 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)

Spotted commonly between November and April, these ducks appear in 15% of state birdwatchers’ winter checklists.

Common Merganser

Common Merganser
  • Mergus merganser
  • Length: 22 – 27 in (56 – 69 cm)
  • Weight: 60.8 oz (1723 g)
  • Wingspan: 31 – 37 in (79 – 94 cm)

Another winter resident in Illinois is the common merganser, which is present here through winter. These ducks commonly arrive in November and depart in April. They are recorded in 11% of checklists compiled by birdwatchers in this state.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser
  • Lophodytes cucullatus
  • Length: 16 – 19 in (41 – 48 cm)
  • Weight: 32.09 oz (909 g)
  • Wingspan: 24 – 26 in (61 – 66 cm)

Another merganser seen here in Illinois is the hooded merganser. These ducks can be seen in the state throughout the year but are more common in winter.

They are listed on 5% of checklists compiled by state birdwatchers in winter, but only 1% of the checklists are made in the summer months.

These are not the only ducks that you can encounter in Illinois. But if you want to learn a little more about some of the species seen in this state, the list above is a good place to begin!

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Elizabeth Waddington

Elizabeth Waddington is a conservation, rewilding, organic gardening and sustainability specialist who loves everything nature-related. She loves helping others around the world connect with the wildlife and wonders around them. When not creating wildlife-wise, eco-friendly designs, or writing about the topics that inspire her, she loves spending time watching the birds on and around her own rural property, or heading out on camping or hiking adventures to spot birds and other wildlife in a range of habitats.