Ducks in Rhode Island – 20 Types To Watch Out For!

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Rhode Island may be a state that is small in size, but it is rich in bird life including a wide variety of ducks. Many dabbling, diving, and sea ducks can be seen in this state. We’ve listed 20 species of Ducks in Rhode Island that you are most likely to encounter here below!

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)

Mallards are one of the most common duck species encountered in Rhode Island and are easily recognizable to most. They can be seen here all year round.

You are likely to encounter them in many ponds and rivers, where people will often stop by to feed them.

Males have distinctive green heads, yellow bills, and blue wing patches. The females also have these wing patches, though are mottled brown all over and have orange bills.

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)

In Rhode Island, you are most likely to see American wigeon during the winter, between their arrival in September and their departure in around April.

You will find these dabbling ducks feeding on wetlands and ponds and in nearby fields and grassland.

The males are gray-brown with white caps and green side stripes on their heads. Females have grayish heads and brown bodies.

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 can be seen in Rhode Island all year long.

In summer, look for them in marshlands and grasslands, in winter, see them in muddy coastal estuaries and reservoirs, and even city parks.

Male gadwalls have black patterns on their chests and shoulders, dark brown heads, white bellies, and black bottoms. The females are brown all over with a diffuse scale pattern in their plumage.

Northern Pintails

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

Northern pintails are another duck species to look out for year-round. But you are most likely to encounter them between September and April.

In the summer, you may sometimes see these breathtaking ducks in open wetlands and fields. However, in the winter, you stand the best chance of seeing them if you make your way to the coast, where they are seen in sheltered estuaries and on salt marshes.

Known for their long, pointed tails, this species can be easy to distinguish. The males are more distinctive, with brown heads, white on their bodies, and a stripe down their necks. Their backs are patterned with black, gray, and white. The females are brown ducks, with detailed scale-like patterns.

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)

Some of these ducks have been spotted throughout each season in Rhode Island. However, you are most likely to see them between September and April, when they can overwinter in the state.

Look for these ducks in large, sociable groups in shallow, stagnant water.

The males have green heads, black backs, reddish sides, white chests, and blue wing patches. The females are speckled brown, with blue shoulder patches. Both males and females have distinctive spoon-shaped bills, but on the males this is black, and on the female it is orange.

Blue-Winged Teal

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

It is most common to spot blue-winged teal in Rhode Island during their migration periods. So look out for this duck species between April and June, during the spring migration, and again between August and October, when the fall migration occurs.

Making their way from northern parks and prairies where they breed to their overwintering grounds or vice versa, you may see these ducks on quiet lakes, ponds, or calm coastal waters.

These are small ducks. The males have brown-spotted bodies, gray-blue heads with white crescents by their eyes, and blue wing patches. The females are brown, with scale patterns, and don’t have the white face markings of the males.

Green-Winged Teal

Green-Winged Teal Duck
  • 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)

These small dabbling ducks can be seen in Rhode Island at any time of the year, in large flocks on shallow ponds and flooded landscapes.

Though their numbers may swell during the periods of bird migration, when they will congregate, often in larger groups.

Males of this duck species have grayish bodies and brown heads, with green side stripes on their heads and green wing patches. The females also have green wing patches but are otherwise mostly brown all over, with yellow streaks on their tails.

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 are typically most often seen here in the summer, between March and October, though they are sometimes spotted here year-round.

Look for these ducks in wet woodland areas, where they feed on both water and land.

The males have green heads with prominent crests, black and white markings, and red eyes. Females are brown and have white rings around their dark eyes. Both sexes have blue wing patches.

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)

You are most likely to see American Black ducks in Rhode Island, as in surrounding states, through the winter months. The best time to see them here is between October and March, though they can be spotted in the summer months too.

You can find these ducks in a range of different environments, foraging for food both on water and on land.

These are large dabbling ducks that have dark brown bodies and paler brown heads, blue-purple wing patches, and orange-red legs. Males and females can be distinguished from one another by the color of their bills. The males have yellow bills and the females have olive ones.

Buffleheads

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

A few buffleheads may remain in this state throughout the whole of the year. Most ducks of this species, however, will arrive around mid-October and depart again around mid-May. So look for these diving ducks in Rhode Island through the winter months.

These are diving ducks, found in shallow bays and protected coastal waters.

These ducks are noted for their bulbous heads. The males have green and purple crowns, foreheads and necks, and bodies that are black above and white below. Females have dark brown or black heads with white patches below their eyes, and bodies that are black above and gray beneath.

Canvasbacks

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

These ducks typically spend the winter in Rhode Island. They arrive in this region around the middle of September and usually remain here until around the middle of May.

Seek out these ducks in coastal waters through the winter months in this state.

The males have reddish-brown heads and throats, white or gray backs, and black chests and bottoms. Females are mostly patterned brown and have grayish bellies.

Ruddy Ducks

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)

Ruddy ducks can be been in Rhode Island over the winter months. Most commonly, they are seen between October and the middle of May. However, they may be seen outside these times since some individuals may remain in the state year-round.

In summer, you might occasionally spot these ducks in any wetland or water environment. But you are most likely to see them along sheltered coastlines and in coastal waters in winter.

The Ruddy duck is named for the reddish hue of the males – but this coloring is present only during the breeding season. Outside the main breeding period, males are like females – broadly grayish. Males have black caps, blue bills, and white cheek patches. Females have brown caps and gray, brown-striped cheek patches.

Redheads

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

These are also winter residents of this state. They arrive in Rhode Island and surrounding states in October and reside here until around May.

These are also ducks to look out for in fairly shallow, calm waters along the coast through winter.

Males live up to their name and have red heads, also black throats, and mostly gray bodies. Female redheads, however, are brown all over.

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)

Some ring-necked ducks may remain in Rhode Island year-round. But most members of this species will arrive in the state from Mid-September and depart by the end of April.

Look out for these ducks in small and shallow ponds and slow-moving rivers.

Males have cinnamon neck rings, bodies black on top and white below, and black foreheads. Females are mostly brown, with white eye rings and gray faces.

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)

These ducks are sometimes seen in Rhode Island year-round. But they are most commonly seen in this state between October and April, so look out for them over the winter months.

These birds are commonly seen along the coastline in coastal waters, in large groups.

The males have black heads, chests, and bottoms with purple iridescence, white sides and gray, patterned backs, and sport tufts of hairs on the top of their heads. The females have brown heads with white cheeks, gray sides, and mostly brown bodies.

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)

Expect to see these ducks in Rhode Island through the winter months. They typically arrive sometime in October and depart sometime in April.

Again, look for these ducks on coastal waters over the winter.

These can easily be confused with lesser scaup, but lack the hair tufts of lesser scaup males, and have rounder heads.

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)

Some ducks of the hooded merganser species remain in Rhode Island year-round. Most, however, will arrive in around November and depart by March. So look for them during the winter months for the best chance to see these ducks.

Look for these diving ducks in inlets and calm saltwater bays.

Males have black heads and yellow eyes, and white crests that they can raise or lower. Their bodies are black on top with white stripes, cinnamon sides, and white, black-barred chests. Females have reddish-brown crests and their bodies are brown-gray.

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)

Common mergansers sometimes remain in this region year-round. But you are most likely to see these ducks in Rhode Island between November and the middle of May.

Again, these are a bird to look out for along the coast.

The males have black heads with green iridescence, dark eyes, red bills, white fronts, and black backs. The females have red bills too but also boast white chin patches.

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 sea ducks can be seen here during the winter, though a few individuals may remain here year-round. Typically, you should look out for them in Rhode Island between November and April.

Again, a beautiful duck to spot along the Rhode Island shoreline.

Males in breeding season have black heads with green iridescence, notable crests, white neck rings, black and white backs, gray sides, and reddish breasts. Non-breeding males and females have reddish-brown crests, white throats, and mainly gray bodies.

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)

This is another duck to look out for in the winter months. They are most commonly spotted in Rhode Island between November and April.

Look out for them congregating along the coastline in calm waters.

Males have green iridescent heads, white bodies, and sides and black backs. The females are brown-headed with grayish-brown bodies.

Several other ducks can be seen in this state. But looking for the species above and learning how to identify them is a good place to start.

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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.