20 Species of Ducks in South Dakota: Our Best Guide

The Species of Ducks in South Dakota are famous around the world. South Dakota is home to various bird species, particularly ducks. Ducks can be found in all state regions and include both migratory and permanent residents. From small waterfowl like Cinnamon Teal to large, colorful species like Wood Ducks, South Dakota hosts some unique duck populations.

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Top Species of Ducks in South Dakota:


Ducks in South Dakota

The mallard duck is a species of waterfowl found throughout the United States, with a vast population in South Dakota. This medium-sized dabbling duck is easily recognized by its bright green head, yellow bill, and distinctive quack. It’s one of North America’s most common bird species and an essential part of South Dakota’s avian landscape.

They are strong swimmers and can live near ponds, lakes, marshes, and slow-moving rivers. During migration, they fly low to the ground in flocks or pairs. In South Dakota, they often find refuge at artificial bodies of water like golf course ponds or fishing reservoirs. The mallard can also be spotted foraging in grassy wetlands for food such as insects, larvae, aquatic vegetation, grains, berries, and seeds.


• Scientific Name: Anas platyrhynchos
• Length: 19.7–25.6 in
• Weight: 35–45 oz.
• Wingspan: 32.3–37.4 in


Gadwall ducks are a species of waterfowl native to North America and can be found in South Dakota. The gadwall is generally a medium-sized duck, with males weighing up to three pounds and females weighing up to two pounds. Both genders have mottled grey and brown feathers on their upper parts, while the underparts are of a lighter hue. Gadwalls also have white patches on their wings, which become more visible during flight.

Their diet consists primarily of aquatic vegetation such as pondweed, musk grass, and wild celery. They may also feed on insects or small fish if they’re available. These ducks usually inhabit shallow bodies of water, such as marshes, ponds, and lakes, where they can find abundant food sources.


• Scientific name: Mareca strepera
• Length: 19–23 in.
• Weight: 29–35 oz.
• Wingspan: 31–36 in

Wood Ducks in South Dakota

Ducks in South Dakota

The wood duck is a species of duck that can be found in South Dakota. This distinctive species of waterfowl is known for its colorful plumage and unique bill shape. The males are particularly striking, with their intricate patterns of green, red, and purple feathers on the wings and head. Females are more subtle in coloration, generally having a mottled brownish-gray body.

Wood ducks inhabit wetlands throughout South Dakota, preferring shallow ponds and streams with ample vegetation for cover from predators and places to nest. These ducks feed on aquatic insects, crustaceans, fruits, and seeds, which they find both in the water and along shorelines. They often travel alone or in small flocks during summer but congregate into larger groups when migrating south each winter.


• Scientific name: Aix sponsa
• Length: 18.5–21.3 in
• Weight: 16–30 oz.
• Wingspan: 26.0–28.7 in

Northern Pintail

The Northern Pintail duck species is a beautiful sight in South Dakota. These ducks are found in many areas throughout the state and provide an ornamental presence to any body of water they inhabit. Known for their long, slender neck and different tail feathers, these ducks stand out amongst other avian residents of the state.

To identify a Northern Pintail, one must first know the specifications of this species. The male has a dark brown head with a white stripe running down his neck and chest area, while his backside is mostly grayish-brown. His most noticeable feature is his long, pointed tail feathers, which curl slightly upward when flying or swimming. The female has similar coloring with more mottled patterns on her wings and chest region and is smaller than the male.


• Scientific Name: Anas acuta
• Length: 20–26 in.
• Weight: 25–36 oz.
• Wingspan: 29 – 35 in

Green-winged Teal

Ducks in South Dakota

The Green-Winged Teal is a species of dabbling duck found in South Dakota. Native to the area, this medium-sized duck typically inhabits shallow ponds and marshes. This species has a wingspan of 18–22 inches, with males generally more prominent than females.

The adult male has a distinctive green head, yellow eyes, and a greyish-brown body, while the female is more of a mottled brown or grey color. Both sexes have an iridescent blue patch on their wings, which can be seen in flight.

Green-winged Teal ducks feed primarily on aquatic invertebrates such as small crustaceans, insects, and snails. They eat plant matter from agricultural fields near their habitats, such as seeds, grasses, and grains.


• Scientific Name: Anas crecca
• Length: 12.2–15.3 in
• Weight: 6–17.6 oz.
• Wingspan: 20.5–23.2 in

American Wigeon

Ducks in South Dakota

The American Wigeon is a species of duck found in South Dakota. This dabbling duck, also known as a Baldpate, is easily identified by its striking white and gray-speckled head.
The male American Wigeon has a bright green head with a white crown that stands out against its brown body.

The female’s coloring is more subdued, with an overall mottled brown plumage, buff sides, and belly. This duck species prefers wetlands, shallow ponds, lakes, and marshes for their habitat. They are also often seen in agricultural fields, feeding on invertebrates such as snails, beetles, and aquatic insects.


• Scientific Name: Mareca americana
• Length: 16.5–23.2 in.
• Weight: 19 – 46 oz
• Wingspan: 33.1 in

Redhead Ducks in South Dakota

Ducks in South Dakota

The redhead duck is found in many areas throughout the United States, and South Dakota is no exception. This species is identifiable by its distinctive brownish-red head and stands out amongst all other ducks. The redhead duck typically inhabits marshes, ponds, and riverbanks, especially those that provide abundant vegetation for feeding. In South Dakota, they are most commonly found in the eastern parts of the state, including along the Missouri River system and lakes such as Swan Lake near Fort Pierre.

Redheads prefer to feed on small aquatic invertebrates such as snails, clams, worms, and insect larvae; however, they will also take advantage of more substantial items like grains or seeds when available.


• Scientific Name: Aythya American length: 18 – 22 in
• Weight: 29–41 oz.
• Wingspan: 29 – 35 in

Lesser Scaup

The lesser scaup species is a common waterfowl in South Dakota. The lesser scaup, a small, light-bodied diving duck, has a blue-gray bill and head, with a white neck and upper breast. Its back is grayish brown with black speckles, and its tail is primarily brown with a white patch near the end of the feathers.

They breed in North America from Alaska and Canada to northern California, Idaho, and Montana, but they can be seen in many other states during migration.

• Scientific Name: Aythya affinis
• Length: 15 – 18 in
• Weight: 32 – 40 oz
• Wingspan: 24 – 33 in

Ring-necked Duck

The Ring-necked Duck is a species of duck native to South Dakota. These ducks breed in the northern U.S. and Canada but migrate south during the winter to find warmer climates and food sources. In South Dakota, ring-necked Ducks can be found in wetlands throughout the state, particularly along larger rivers and lakes in the eastern half of the state.

This species is easily identified by its black head, white neck ring, and chestnut sides that contrast with its predominantly grey body. Ring-necked Ducks are omnivorous creatures that feed on aquatic invertebrates, small fish, and plant material such as seeds or grains found near their habitat.


• Scientific Name: Aythya collaris
• Length: 14 – 18 in
• Weight: 21 – 32 oz
• Wingspan: 24–30 in


Ducks in South Dakota

The canvasback species of duck is an iconic waterfowl found throughout South Dakota. This unique and beautiful bird has been a symbol in the area for centuries, as it’s one of North America’s largest and most recognizable ducks. The canvasback is characterized by its distinct sloping head, short neck, and red-brown coloring on its back.

In South Dakota, the canvasback species of duck can be found near bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, and ponds. They especially thrive in areas with shallow depths where they can feed on aquatic plants like wild celery, pondweed, and musk grass.


• Scientific Name: Aythya valisineria
• Length: 19 – 24 in
• Weight: 36 – 58 oz
• Wingspan: 28 – 36 in

Common Merganser

Ducks in South Dakota

The Common Merganser is one of the most diverse duck species in South Dakota. The bird is found throughout the state and can often be spotted along rivers, lakes, and ponds. Known for its striking white body and black wings, it stands out among other ducks in South Dakota’s aquatic habitats.

This is a fish-eating duck that nests in tree cavities near water sources. It mainly eats crayfish, small fish, insects, and amphibians. Its long bill helps it to find prey that others may not be able to consume as quickly. Like many species of ducks, the female builds the nest herself while the male defends her from predators during nesting season.


• Scientific Name: Mergus merganser
• Length: 22 – 27 in
• Weight: 45 – 60 oz
• Wingspan: 31 – 37 in

Hooded Merganser

Ducks in South Dakota

The Hooded Merganser is a duck species native to the United States and Canada and can be observed in South Dakota. The Hooded Merganser is known for its striking white and black coloring and distinct tufts on its head. It is visually impressive, and its sharp bill allows it to capture small fish easily.

They can usually be found around freshwater bodies such as ponds, lakes, streams, and rivers. It prefers woody areas near the water, where it can hunt for food while also finding refuge from predators. During their nesting season, which typically falls between April and June, they use piles of sticks along the shoreline to build their nests and to access fresh water for hunting purposes.


• Scientific Name: Lophodytes cucullatus
• Length: 16 – 19 in
• Weight: 21 – 32 oz
• Wingspan: 24 – 26 in

Northern Shoveler Ducks in South Dakota

Ducks in South Dakota

The Northern Shoveler species of duck is a common sight in South Dakota. It’s known for its large, bright orange bill that it uses to feed on aquatic vegetation. The northern shoveler is one of North America’s most widespread species of ducks and can be found in many parts of South Dakota.

This species mainly nests near shallow wetlands, ponds, and marshes, making it quite common in the state’s eastern half. They are also seen along rivers and lakes throughout South Dakota during migration season as they travel from their breeding grounds up north down to their wintering areas further south.


• Scientific Name: Spatula cyanoptera
• Length: 14 – 17 in
• Weight: 11 – 16 oz
• Wingspan: 24 – 30 in

Blue-winged Teal

blue-winged-teal-Ducks in South Dakota

The Blue-winged Teal duck species is a widespread species found in South Dakota. This small dabbling duck can be seen from April to early October during its migration throughout the state. It is easily identified by its light grayish-brown body and bright sky-blue markings on its wings. The male Blue-winged Teal has a green head, while the female’s head is brown with white stripes above her bill.

This duck species prefers shallow wetlands, such as marshes and ponds, for feeding purposes. During the breeding season, they will nest in grassy areas near water bodies that protect them from predators. Wading or diving in shallow waters typically consumes aquatic insects and vegetation such as snails, clams, crustaceans, and other plant material.


• Scientific Name: Spatula discors
• Length: 15 – 17 in
• Weight: 10 – 19 oz
• Wingspan: 23 – 31 in

Cinnamon Teal

The Cinnamon Teal is a species of duck that resides in South Dakota. This small dabbling duck is easily identified by its bold cinnamon and chestnut-colored feathers. It has two black vertical stripes along its side and a deep blue bill, head, and neck that make it stand out from other ducks.

This colorful duck species can be spotted throughout South Dakota, particularly around lakes and wetlands. They travel in pairs or small family groups, often seen to be grazing on shallow waters where they feed on aquatic invertebrates such as insect larvae and crustaceans. During winter, they tend to congregate in larger flocks on larger bodies of water like reservoirs or rivers.


• Scientific Name: Spatula cyanoptera
• Length: 14 – 17 in
• Weight: 11 – 16 oz
• Wingspan: 24 – 30 in

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Ducks in South Dakota

The Ruddy Duck is a species of duck native to South Dakota. This mallard-sized duck is easily identified by its bright white cheek patches and chestnut body. The Ruddy Duck can also be noticed due to its short tail, which it often holds upright while swimming on the water’s surface.

Inhabiting rivers and South Dakota wetlands, these duck species feed mainly on aquatic insects in the summer months. Still, they will supplement their diet with small crustaceans and plant matter when available. They have also been known to consume fish eggs from time to time. Male Ruddy Ducks are incredibly distinctive during their courtship displays, where they raise their tails high in the air, spread out their feathers, and make bill-circling movements.


• Scientific Name: Oxyura jamaicensis
• Length: 14 – 16 in
• Weight: 12 – 30 oz
• Wingspan: 21 – 24 in

Common Goldeneye

The Common Goldeneye duck species can be found in South Dakota, where they make their homes amongst the vast expanses of wetlands and rivers. This species is usually observed in pairs or small flocks, often gathering near the edges of lakes and ponds to feed on aquatic vegetation and small invertebrates.
The males feature a black head with white cheeks framed by an iridescent green patch, while females have a brown head with a light-brown crescent behind each eye.


• Scientific Name: Bucephala Clangula
• Length: 15.8 – 20.1 in
• Weight: 21 – 45 oz
• Wingspan: 30.3 – 32.7 in

Bufflehead Ducks in South Dakota

The Bufflehead species of duck is a unique waterfowl found in South Dakota. The males have a glossy green-black head with white patches on the sides and back, while the females have more dull-colored feathers, usually brown or gray. T

These ducks in South Dakota are often seen wintering as they migrate from Canada to the Southern United States during the cold months.
Buffleheads breed primarily in Quebec, but there has been an increasing population of Buffleheads nesting along lakeshores across South Dakota.

During the summer, these birds search for food near shallow water bodies such as ponds and wetlands, where they feast on aquatic invertebrates like snails, insect larvae, mollusks, crustaceans, and aquatic vegetation.


• Scientific Name: Bucephala albeola
• Length: 13 – 16 in
• Weight: 11 – 21 oz
• Wingspan: 20 – 24 in

Red-breasted Merganser


The Red-breasted Merganser duck species is a unique and beautiful bird found throughout the United States. In South Dakota, this species can be seen in rivers, lakes, and wetlands across the state. It is easily identifiable by its bright red head, green or purple sheen, long slender neck, and bill.

These ducks are mainly found on larger bodies of water, such as reservoirs and large rivers, where they feed on aquatic invertebrates and fish. However, they occasionally gather at smaller ponds or streams to rest and socialize with other flock members. They are excellent swimmers who use their wings for diving underwater in search of food sources below the surface. Their size allows them to maneuver easily through tight spaces beneath rocks or even around vegetation while searching for food.


• Scientific Name: Mergus serrator
• Length: 20 – 24 inches
• Weight: 29 – 35 oz
• Wingspan: 28 – 34 inches

Long-tailed Duck

The long-tailed duck is a species of duck found in South Dakota. This duck species is one of the most common in the state and can be found in bodies of water such as lakes, ponds, rivers, and wetlands throughout much of South Dakota. The long-tailed duck is easily recognizable by its distinctive black-and-white plumage and long tail feathers.

This duck has a mostly white face with a dark crown that extends down to its neck, giving it a unique look among other ducks. It also has an angular head shape compared to other ducks. In addition to its distinctive markings, this species has a typical call that can often be heard during the late spring and early summer months when they are breeding.


• Scientific Name: Clangula hyemalis
• Length: 15 – 22 in
• Weight: 31.74 oz
• Wingspan: 26 – 31 in


Ducks in South Dakota are a valuable part of the state’s wildlife population. They provide essential ecological services and economic prosperity to the state, benefiting people and ducks alike. Through continued conservation efforts, ducks in South Dakota can thrive for generations. We must take care of these majestic creatures and ensure they remain part of our natural heritage.

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