9 Ducks in Hawaii

Nestled in the heart of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, lush vegetation, and diverse wildlife. While the islands are synonymous with golden beaches and swaying palm trees, one might not immediately associate ducks with this tropical paradise. However, these delightful waterfowl have found a home in the stunning archipelago, adding to its vibrant ecosystem.

Hawaii’s unique geographical location and favorable climate provide an ideal habitat for a variety of duck species. From the familiar Mallards to the strikingly colorful Mandarin Ducks, these avian inhabitants gracefully navigate the state’s pristine waters, creating a charming spectacle for both locals and visitors alike.

This article aims to explore the fascinating world of ducks in Hawaii, shedding light on their presence, behavior, and ecological significance. We will delve into the different duck species found on the islands, their adaptive characteristics, and the conservation efforts in place to protect these remarkable creatures. So, let us embark on a captivating journey through the enchanting realm of ducks in Hawaii, where nature’s wonders never cease to amaze.

1. Hawaiian Duck

  • Scientific name: Anas wyvilliana
  • Life span: 15-20 years
  • Size: 41-46 cm (16-18 in)
  • Weight: 500-700 g (1.1-1.5 lb)
  • Wingspan: 71-79 cm (28-31 in)
  • Status: Endangered

The Hawaiian Duck, also known as the Koloa, is a native species found exclusively in the Hawaiian Islands. This beautiful duck exhibits a stunning combination of mottled brown plumage and a distinctive white eye-ring. Sadly, it is one of the rarest ducks in the world, making any encounter with this endangered species a truly special moment. Fun Fact: The Hawaiian Duck is featured on the state’s quarter, symbolizing its significance to the local culture and environment.

Close-up of a Hawaiian Duck

Hawaiian Ducks construct nests near water, often in dense vegetation, using grasses and leaves. They prefer secluded locations for nesting.

Their diet primarily consists of plant matter, including seeds, fruits, and aquatic vegetation. They also consume small invertebrates found in the water.

The Hawaiian Duck is listed as endangered due to habitat loss, predation, and hybridization with introduced Mallards. Conservation efforts focus on habitat restoration, predator control, and captive breeding programs to ensure the survival of this iconic species.

2. Laysan Teal

  • Scientific name: Anas laysanensis
  • Life span: 4-8 years
  • Size: 37-41 cm (15-16 in)
  • Weight: 200-340 g (0.44-0.75 lb)
  • Wingspan: 58-66 cm (23-26 in)
  • Status: Endangered

Endemic to the remote Laysan Island in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the Laysan Teal showcases a striking appearance with its cinnamon-brown body and vibrant green speculum. With less than 500 individuals in the wild, this teal is critically endangered. Fun Fact: The Laysan Teal has an interesting adaptation to its isolated habitat – it is one of the few ducks capable of drinking saltwater and eliminating excess salt through specialized glands.

A Laysan Teal swimming in a body of water

Laysan Teals build nests in grassy or shrubby areas, lining them with plant materials and down feathers. They prefer remote and undisturbed sites for nesting.

Laysan Teals have a varied diet, feeding on insects, small invertebrates, and seeds found in their wetland habitats.

They have faced severe population declines due to habitat degradation, introduced predators, and disease outbreaks. Conservation efforts involve habitat restoration, predator control, captive breeding programs, and translocation to ensure the recovery of this critically endangered species.

3. Mallard

  • Scientific name: Anas platyrhynchos
  • Life span: 5-10 years
  • Size: 50-65 cm (20-26 in)
  • Weight: 700-1600 g (1.5-3.5 lb)
  • Wingspan: 81-98 cm (32-39 in)
  • Status: Least Concern

The Mallard, a common and widespread duck species, can be found across the Hawaiian Islands. With its vibrant green head, yellow bill, and intricate feather patterns, the Mallard adds a splash of color to various Hawaiian habitats. Fun Fact: Mallards are highly adaptable and have successfully colonized many parts of the world, making them one of the most widespread duck species globally.

Close-up photo of a Mallard

Mallards build nests on the ground, often in vegetation near water bodies, using grasses and down feathers for lining.

Mallards are omnivorous, feeding on a wide range of food including aquatic plants, seeds, insects, and small invertebrates.

While Mallards are not a conservation concern in Hawaii, hybridization with native ducks can threaten the genetic integrity of native species. Conservation efforts focus on managing Mallard populations and preserving the genetic purity of endemic and endangered Hawaiian waterfowl.

4. Fulvous Whistling Duck

  • Scientific name: Dendrocygna bicolor
  • Life span: 5-7 years
  • Size: 5-7 years
  • Weight: 5-7 years
  • Wingspan: 91-106 cm (36-42 in)
  • Status: Least Concern

The Fulvous Whistling Duck is a tropical species occasionally spotted in wetland areas of Hawaii. Its rich chestnut plumage, long neck, and distinctive white face markings make it an eye-catching sight. Fun Fact: Unlike most ducks, the Fulvous Whistling Duck has strong claws that allow it to perch in trees, an unusual behavior for a duck.

Close-up photo of a Fulvous Whistling Duck

Fulvous Whistling Ducks nest in shallow depressions on the ground, typically concealed among dense vegetation.

They have an omnivorous diet, feeding on a variety of plant matter, seeds, insects, and small aquatic organisms.

As an occasional visitor to Hawaii, the Fulvous Whistling Duck does not face specific conservation concerns in the region. However, efforts to protect and preserve wetland habitats benefit this species and other waterfowl that utilize these ecosystems.

5. Northern Pintail

  • Scientific name: Anas acuta
  • Life span: 10-15 years
  • Size: 56-66 cm (22-26 in)
  • Weight: 450-1150 g (1-2.5 lb
  • Wingspan: 80-95 cm (31-38 in)
  • Status: Least Concern

During the winter months, the Northern Pintail visits the Hawaiian Islands, showcasing its elegant and slender profile with a long neck and pointed tail feathers. Males display intricate plumage patterns with a distinct chocolate-brown head and a white stripe extending up the neck.

Fun Fact: The Northern Pintail is known for its remarkable migration, with some individuals traveling up to 3,000 miles in search of suitable breeding grounds.

A pair of Northern Pintails swimming in a body of water

Northern Pintails nest on the ground, in tall grasses or near water bodies, using vegetation and down feathers for nest construction.

Their diet primarily consists of plant matter, including seeds, grains, and aquatic vegetation. They also feed on small invertebrates.

Northern Pintails are not a conservation concern in Hawaii. However, like other waterfowl species, they benefit from wetland conservation efforts and habitat preservation to ensure their continued population health.

6. Northern Shoveler

  • Scientific name: Spatula clypeata
  • Life span: 10-15 years          
  • Size: 43-53 cm (17-21 in)
  • Weight: 400-1100 g (0.88-2.4 lb)
  • Wingspan: 74-86 cm (29-34 in)
  • Status: Least Concern

The Northern Shoveler is a widespread duck species found across various regions, including Hawaii. With its distinctively long, spatulate bill and striking breeding plumage, featuring deep chestnut sides and a vibrant green head, this duck stands out among its feathered counterparts.

Fun Fact: The Northern Shoveler’s unique bill design allows it to filter water through its bill, retaining small invertebrates and seeds while expelling excess water.

A Northern Shoveler looking for food in the evening

Northern Shovelers create shallow nests on the ground near water, often concealed in vegetation, using plant materials and down feathers for lining.

Their diet mainly consists of aquatic invertebrates, small crustaceans, and seeds. Their unique bill shape allows them to filter food from the water surface.

Northern Shovelers are not a conservation concern in Hawaii. However, conservation efforts to protect wetland habitats benefit this species and contribute to the overall health of waterfowl populations.

7. Lesser Scaup

  • Scientific name: Aythya affinis
  • Life span: 12-15 years
  • Size: 38-48 cm (15-19 in)
  • Weight: 400-1000 g (0.88-2.2 lb)
  • Wingspan: 64-74 cm (25-29 in)
  • Status: Least Concern

The Lesser Scaup, a diving duck species, can be observed in the Hawaiian Islands. These ducks sport a dark iridescent plumage, yellow eyes, and a blue bill.

Fun Fact: During courtship displays, male Lesser Scaups engage in synchronized “pumping” movements, rapidly raising and lowering their heads, creating a captivating spectacle.

A flock of Lessar Scaups in flight

Lesser Scaups build nests on the ground, typically near water bodies, using vegetation and down feathers for lining.

Their diet primarily includes small aquatic organisms, such as insects, mollusks, and crustaceans. They also feed on plant matter and seeds.

Lesser Scaups are not a conservation concern in Hawaii. Preservation of wetlands and their associated habitats plays a crucial role in maintaining healthy populations of Lesser Scaups and other waterfowl species.

8. Eurasian Wigeon

  • Scientific name: Mareca penelope
  • Life span: 15-20 years
  • Size: 42-52 cm (17-20 in)
  • Weight: 500-1000 g (1.1-2.2 lb)
  • Wingspan: 70-85 cm (28-33 in)
  • Status: Least Concern

The Eurasian Wigeon occasionally visits the Hawaiian Islands, adding a touch of elegance with its striking coloration. Males boast a rusty-red head, cream-colored crown, and gray body, while females exhibit mottled brown plumage.

Fun Fact: The Eurasian Wigeon is known for its distinctive whistling call, which has been described as a “peewit” or “whew” sound.

A female Eurasian Wigeon swimming

Eurasian Wigeons nest in shallow depressions on the ground, often in grassy or marshy areas, lined with grasses and down feathers. Their diet mainly comprises plant matter, including seeds, leaves, and stems. They also consume small invertebrates and insects.

Eurasian Wigeons occasionally visit Hawaii but are not a specific conservation concern in the region. Conservation efforts aimed at preserving wetland habitats benefit this species and other waterfowl.

9. American Wigeon

  • Scientific name: Mareca americana
  • Life span: 12-15 years
  • Size: 42-59 cm (17-23 in)
  • Weight: 600-1200 g (1.3-2.6 lb)
  • Wingspan: 76-91 cm (30-36 in)
  • Status: Least Concern

Found across the Hawaiian Islands, the American Wigeon captivates with its exquisite plumage. Males display a striking combination of a creamy forehead, a green eye patch, and a beautiful iridescent green band across the side of the head.

Fun Fact: American Wigeons are known for their “whistling” vocalizations, leading to their nickname “baldpate” due to the similarity of their call to the sound of a human whistle.

Close-up of a swimming American Wigeon

American Wigeons build nests on the ground in grassy or marshy areas, lined with grasses and down feathers.

Their diet primarily consists of aquatic plants, seeds, and grains. They also feed on small invertebrates and insects.

American Wigeons are not a conservation concern in Hawaii. However, wetland conservation efforts help maintain suitable habitats for this species and contribute to the overall well-being of waterfowl populations.

Where to find Ducks in Hawaii

Hawaii offers ample opportunities for duck enthusiasts to observe and appreciate these fascinating waterfowl species in their natural habitats. Exploring the following four areas can increase the chances of encountering ducks in Hawaii:

  • Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge (Kauai): This refuge provides an ideal haven for various duck species. Visitors can explore the refuge’s wetland areas and enjoy the tranquil beauty while observing ducks such as Hawaiian Ducks, Northern Pintails, and American Wigeons.
  • Kealia Pond National Wildlife Refuge (Maui): Known as a vital habitat for waterbirds, Kealia Pond offers excellent birdwatching opportunities. Wander along the refuge’s trails and boardwalks, and you may spot Hawaiian Ducks, Mallards, Northern Shovelers, and other duck species.
  • Huleia National Wildlife Refuge (Kauai): Nestled along the Huleia River, this refuge is a haven for water-loving birds, including ducks. Take a boat tour or kayak along the river to catch glimpses of Hawaiian Ducks, Mallards, and other waterfowl species.
  • Kawai Nui Marsh (Oahu): This expansive wetland is home to a diverse array of birdlife, including ducks. Explore the area on foot or by kayak, keeping an eye out for ducks like Northern Shovelers, Mallards, and Eurasian Wigeons.

To increase your chances of spotting ducks, visit these areas during the early morning or late afternoon when waterfowl are most active. Bring binoculars or a spotting scope to observe them from a distance without disturbing their natural behavior. Be respectful of their habitat and adhere to any park regulations or guidelines in place.

By immersing yourself in these picturesque landscapes and wetland environments, you can witness the graceful movements, vibrant plumage, and captivating behaviors of ducks in Hawaii, creating unforgettable moments in the company of these remarkable waterfowl.


In the beautiful island paradise of Hawaii, ducks grace the wetlands and water bodies, adding vibrancy to the natural landscapes. From the endangered Hawaiian Ducks to the migratory visitors, these waterfowl captivate with their elegant presence.

Let us cherish and protect their habitats, ensuring the continued presence and beauty of ducks in Hawaii for generations to come.

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