21 Ducks in Montana (With Pictures)

21 Ducks in Montana (With Pictures)

Montana’s vast and varied landscapes offer an ideal backdrop for a diverse array of avian species, particularly ducks. From the sprawling wetlands to the tranquil rivers and expansive lakes, the state’s ecosystems provide perfect habitats for both breeding and migratory ducks, making it a premier destination for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike. This article explores the fascinating world of ducks in Montana, shedding light on the common and rare species that grace its waters.

We delve into the life cycles and behaviors of species such as the Mallard, Northern Pintail, and the elusive Red-breasted Merganser, among others. Through understanding their migratory patterns, breeding habits, and conservation statuses, we gain insight into the vital roles these birds play in Montana’s ecosystems and the importance of protecting their habitats.

Join us as we embark on a journey into the heart of Montana’s duck populations, discovering the beauty and complexity of these aquatic birds in their natural environments.

1. 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
  • State status: Breeding and common

The Mallard, a ubiquitous presence across much of the Northern Hemisphere, flourishes in a variety of watery environments from park ponds to remote, wild lakes. Males are instantly recognizable by their gleaming green heads, contrasted sharply with white collars and chestnut-brown chests, while females sport an understated mottled brown plumage, offering excellent camouflage among reeds and rushes.

Both sexes share the characteristic blue-purple wing patch, visible in flight or while at rest, making them a familiar and beloved sight in their widespread range.


Mallards craft cozy nests on the ground, often hidden in tall grass or reeds. With a blend of plant material and down feathers, each nest cradles a clutch of about 8-13 eggs, revealing the mallard’s dedication to nurturing future generations.

These ducks are versatile eaters, feasting on a buffet of seeds, aquatic plants, and small invertebrates. Whether dabbling in shallow waters or foraging on land, mallards showcase an adaptable diet that supports their widespread presence across diverse habitats.

Thriving in varied environments, mallards are conservation success stories, owing to habitat restoration and regulated hunting. Their population resilience highlights effective conservation practices, ensuring mallards grace our waters for years to come.

2. 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 lbs)
  • Wingspan: 80-95 cm (31-38 in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and common

Elegance personified, the Northern Pintail graces wetlands across the globe, from North America to Eurasia and Africa during migration. This bird’s slender frame and elongated neck lend it a distinguished air, with males showcasing a chocolate-brown head atop a white neck that streams into a grey body, while the namesake pointed tail feathers add flair.

Females are cloaked in a more subdued but equally refined mottled brown pattern, allowing them to blend seamlessly into their nesting environment.

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintails prefer the solitude of wide, open spaces for nesting. Their nests, a simple affair of grasses lined with down, cradle 7-9 eggs. These ducks illustrate a serene dedication to their offspring, even in the vast wilderness.

Elegant foragers, Northern Pintails dine on seeds, aquatic vegetation, and invertebrates, seamlessly switching between land and water to feed. Their dietary flexibility ensures survival in their migratory journeys, showcasing the adaptability of these graceful birds.

Facing challenges from habitat loss and hunting, Northern Pintails have seen fluctuating populations. Conservation efforts focus on wetland restoration and sustainable hunting practices, aiming to stabilize their numbers and maintain the beauty of their presence in the skies.

3. 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
  • State status: Migratory and common

The Northern Shoveler’s distinctive large bill sets it apart in the wetlands of the world, from North America to Eurasia. Males flaunt an iridescent green head, white chest, and chestnut sides, making them unmistakable.

Females, dressed in a more uniform brown, still command attention with their shape and grace. This duck’s unique feeding style, skimming the water’s surface, adds an intriguing aspect to its behavior, reflecting the diversity of avian life strategies.

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shovelers nest on the ground in dense vegetation near water, laying 9-12 eggs. Their large, spatulate bills are not just for feeding but symbolize the uniqueness of their kind, even as they nest in the quietude of nature’s embrace.

With their distinctive large bills, Northern Shovelers sift through water to feed on plankton, seeds, and small invertebrates. This feeding technique is a marvel of evolution, showcasing their specialized role in aquatic ecosystems and their contribution to maintaining water quality.

The conservation narrative of Northern Shovelers includes habitat protection and water quality improvement. Their success is linked to the health of wetlands and marshes, making the efforts to preserve these habitats crucial for their continued survival and prosperity.

4. 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
  • State status: Migratory and common

Roaming the wetlands and rivers across North America, the American Wigeon is a bird of distinct character. Males exhibit a unique head pattern with a green eye stripe set against a buff forehead and crown, complementing their grey bodies and black tails.

Females display a more uniform brown plumage, seamlessly blending into their surroundings. This species’ adaptability to varied habitats underlines its resilience and the beauty of avian life.

American Wigeon

American Wigeons nest on the ground in dense grasslands near water, laying 7-9 eggs. Their nesting choice reflects a blend of openness for foraging and cover for protection, illustrating the delicate balance they navigate in their breeding habitats.

Primarily herbivores, American Wigeons graze on grasses and aquatic plants, supplementing their diet with small invertebrates. Their feeding patterns highlight their role in shaping vegetation communities and the interconnectedness of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

Conservation efforts for American Wigeons focus on preserving wetlands and grasslands, vital for their nesting and feeding. Their adaptable presence across diverse landscapes underscores the importance of comprehensive habitat conservation strategies for waterfowl.

5. Wood Duck

  • Scientific name: Aix sponsa
  • Life span: 5-10 years
  • Size: 48-54 cm (19-21 in)
  • Weight: 454-862 g (1-1.9 lb)
  • Wingspan: 66-73 cm (26-29 in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and common

In the wooded swamps and streams of North America, the Wood Duck stands as a jewel. Males are a kaleidoscope of colours, with iridescent green and purple heads, bold white stripes, and a chestnut breast, while females are elegantly attired in a more subdued but no less beautiful pattern of browns and whites.

Their preference for tree nests is unique among ducks, adding to the mystique of this stunning species, which enchants all who encounter it.

Wood Duck

Wood Ducks exhibit a unique nesting choice, preferring tree cavities near water bodies, laying 6-15 eggs. Their brilliant colours and preference for arboreal nests highlight a splendid adaptation to forested wetlands, a vibrant spectacle of nature’s diversity.

Feeding on a varied diet of seeds, fruits, and insects, Wood Ducks showcase an adaptability in foraging that allows them to exploit different ecosystems. Their dietary habits reflect their ecological versatility, contributing to the richness of their habitats.

Conservation for Wood Ducks has been a remarkable success story, involving the protection of wetlands and the provision of nesting boxes to counteract habitat loss. These efforts underscore the importance of targeted conservation strategies, showcasing the potential for human intervention to positively impact wildlife populations.

6. Blue-winged Teal

  • Scientific name: Spatula discors
  • Life span: 5-10 years
  • Size: 40-47 cm (16-19 in)
  • Weight: 280-420 g (9.9-14.8 oz)
  • Wingspan: 58-63 cm (23-25 in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and common

Darting through the marshes and ponds of the Americas, the Blue-winged Teal is a small dynamo. The male’s bold white facial crescent and speckled brown body are complemented by striking blue wing patches, while the female’s mottled brown plumage allows her to vanish among the reeds.

Their agility in flight and vibrant presence add a layer of excitement to the ecosystems they inhabit, showcasing the diversity of life in wetland habitats.

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teals nest on the ground, often in upland grasslands far from water, laying 6-10 eggs. Their nesting strategy, a blend of stealth and unpredictability, speaks to their adaptability and the depth of their instinctual behaviors.

Feeding on a mix of aquatic vegetation, seeds, and invertebrates, Blue-winged Teals exhibit a broad dietary spectrum. This versatility in feeding habits ensures their success across a range of environments, highlighting their ecological significance.

Conservation for Blue-winged Teals involves preserving wetlands and upland habitats crucial for breeding and migration. Their widespread distribution emphasizes the need for comprehensive habitat management, ensuring the sustainability of populations across their migratory range.

7. Gadwall

  • Scientific name: Mareca strepera
  • Life span: 5-10 years
  • Size: 46-56 cm (18-22 in)
  • Weight: 800-1,350 g (1.8-3.0 lb)
  • Wingspan: 81-95 cm (32-37 in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and common

The Gadwall, with its understated elegance, frequents lakes, marshes, and estuaries across the world. Males are a study in subtlety, with their delicately patterned grey plumage and black rear, while females wear a camouflaging coat of variegated browns.

This duck’s preference for quiet, reedy waters reflects its unassuming nature, making it a gem for those who find beauty in the nuances of the natural world.


Gadwalls select dense vegetation near water to hide their nests, laying 7-12 eggs. Their nesting habits, blending into the landscape yet close to water, reflect an innate wisdom in choosing locations that offer safety and proximity to essential resources.

Feeding on aquatic vegetation and invertebrates, Gadwalls demonstrate a preference for foraging in shallow waters. Their diet illustrates their important ecological role in wetlands, contributing to the health and diversity of aquatic plant life.

Efforts to conserve Gadwalls include wetland conservation and management practices that ensure the availability of quality habitat. Their story is one of resilience, benefiting from conservation efforts that have improved wetland ecosystems across their range.

8. Green-winged Teal

  • Scientific name: Anas crecca
  • Life span: 5-10 years
  • Size: 33-38 cm (13-15 in)
  • Weight: 150-400 g (5.3-14.1 oz)
  • Wingspan: 53-59 cm (21-23 in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and common

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green-winged_tealThe Green-winged Teal, the smallest dabbling duck in North America, punches above its weight in terms of vibrancy. Males boast an eye-catching chestnut head with a broad green eye patch, set against a speckled brown body with a pronounced green wing patch.

Females, though less flamboyant, carry a soft beauty with their warm brown plumage. They are found in marshes and ponds across the Americas and Eurasia, adding a splash of color to the landscape.

Green-winged Teal

Nestled in dense cover near water, Green-winged Teals lay 6-9 eggs in cozy nests. They choose secluded spots to protect their brood, embodying the careful balance between vulnerability and the instinctual drive to nurture.

With a penchant for seeds, aquatic vegetation, and small invertebrates, Green-winged Teals adeptly balance their diet between plant and animal sources. This dietary diversity supports their needs throughout the year, reflecting their resilience in ever-changing habitats.

Though generally abundant, Green-winged Teals benefit from conservation measures that protect wetlands and water quality. These efforts ensure their habitats remain intact, supporting the ecological web that sustains these small yet vibrant ducks.

9. American Black Duck

  • Scientific name: Anas rubripes
  • Life span: 5-10 years
  • Size: 54-63 cm (21-25 in)
  • Weight: 727-1,380 g (1.6-3 lb)
  • Wingspan: 91-102 cm (36-40 in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and very rare

The American Black Duck, a staple in eastern North America’s marshes and estuaries, presents a palette of dark brown hues, enabling it to meld into the shadowy waters it prefers. Its subtle beauty lies in the contrast between its darker body and lighter head, with violet wing patches visible in flight.

This species embodies the richness of North American wetlands, thriving in the quiet corners of its aquatic realms.

American Black Duck

American Black Ducks lay their eggs in dense cover on the ground, usually close to water, laying 6-10 eggs. Their nesting habits reveal a preference for seclusion and safety, a strategy that ensures the protection of their future generations.

With a diet consisting of aquatic vegetation, seeds, and small invertebrates, American Black Ducks are adaptable foragers. Their dietary flexibility allows them to thrive in various wetland habitats, showcasing their resilience in changing environments.

Conservation efforts for American Black Ducks have focused on habitat restoration and protection, addressing the challenges of habitat loss and competition with other duck species. These initiatives underscore the importance of targeted conservation strategies to support their populations.

10. Ring-necked Duck

  • Scientific name: Aythya collaris
  • Life span: 5-10 years
  • Size: 39-46 cm (15-18 in)
  • Weight: 680-1,360 g (1.5-3 lb)
  • Wingspan: 63-76 cm (25-30 in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and common

Despite its name, the Ring-necked Duck’s most noticeable feature is rarely seen at a distance; instead, its bold white ring on the bill and distinctively patterned sides captivate observers. Males are decked out in black and grey, with a subtle, purplish ring around the neck only seen up close, while females present a softer palette of brown and white.

They frequent the wooded lakes and ponds of North America, bringing an air of mystery to the avian world.

Ring-necked Duck

Choosing dense vegetation near water, Ring-necked Ducks lay 8-10 eggs in well-hidden nests. Their nesting sites, often secluded and inaccessible, highlight their intrinsic need for safety and the continuation of their lineage in quiet solitude.

Ring-necked Ducks have a diverse palate, feeding on aquatic vegetation, grains, and invertebrates. This varied diet supports their energetic needs throughout migration, illustrating their resourcefulness and adaptability to different environments.

Conservation efforts for Ring-necked Ducks emphasize wetland preservation and the mitigation of water pollution. Their well-being is directly tied to the health of aquatic ecosystems, making clean, abundant water sources paramount for their survival.

11. Redhead

  • Scientific name: Aythya americana
  • Life span: 10-15 years
  • Size: 42-49 cm (17-19 in)
  • Weight: 850-1,600 g (1.9-3.5 lb)
  • Wingspan: 76-84 cm (30-33 in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and less common

Occupying marshes and ponds across North America, the Redhead can be mistaken for the Canvasback but for its rounder head and uniform grey body. Males dazzle with their striking namesake red heads sitting atop black chests, contrasting with their grey sides.

Females wear a more conservative dress of brown, blending effortlessly with their surroundings. Their presence is a testament to the diverse tapestry of waterfowl that adorns the continent’s wetlands.


Redheads often nest in dense marshes or on floating vegetation, laying 8-10 eggs. They sometimes engage in “egg-dumping,” where they lay eggs in other ducks’ nests. This unique strategy underscores the complexities of avian reproductive behaviors.

Redheads mainly feast on aquatic plants, but they won’t shy away from mollusks, insects, and small fish. This diet reflects their adaptability to seasonal changes, ensuring they thrive in both breeding and wintering grounds.

Efforts to conserve Redheads focus on protecting wetland habitats from development and pollution. These birds have shown resilience, but their success hinges on ongoing conservation work to preserve the intricate ecosystems that support them.

12. Bufflehead

  • Scientific name: Bucephala albeola
  • Life span: 12-15 years
  • Size: 32-40 cm (13-16 in)
  • Weight: 270-550 g (9.5-19.4 oz)
  • Wingspan: 46-54 cm (18-21 in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and common

This small, buoyant duck is a marvel of black and white. Males are unmistakable with their large, white patch that wraps around the back of the head, set against a backdrop of glossy black.

Females are more demure with their dark brown plumage and smaller white cheek patches. Found in the wooded lakes and rivers of North America, the Bufflehead’s agility in water and air makes it a delightful addition to the ecosystems it inhabits.


Buffleheads are cavity nesters, utilizing tree holes left by woodpeckers to lay 6-11 eggs. This nesting choice reflects their unique adaptation to available natural resources, showcasing an intriguing aspect of avian survival strategies.

Feeding primarily on aquatic invertebrates and some plant material, Buffleheads demonstrate remarkable diving skills in their forage. Their diet highlights the ecological role they play in controlling underwater invertebrate populations, contributing to the health of their aquatic habitats.

The conservation narrative of Buffleheads includes protecting nesting sites and ensuring clean, unpolluted water bodies. Their reliance on specific nesting habitats underscores the importance of conserving old-growth forests alongside aquatic ecosystems.

13. Ruddy Duck

  • Scientific name: Oxyura jamaicensis
  • Life span: 6-8 years
  • Size: 36-43 cm (14-17 in)
  • Weight: 430-790 g (0.95-1.74 lb)
  • Wingspan: 61-74 cm (24-29 in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and common

The Ruddy Duck, with its stout body and striking blue bill in males, is a vibrant inhabitant of lakes and ponds across the Americas. The male’s chestnut body and tail often cocked upwards give it a cheeky appearance, while the female’s subdued brown tones offer a contrast in understatement.

Their presence enlivens the water bodies they call home, making them a favorite among those who appreciate the quirky side of nature.

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Ducks build floating nests hidden in dense marsh vegetation, laying 8-10 eggs. This behavior showcases their unique adaptation to wetland habitats, creating a safe haven for their offspring amidst the reeds and water.

Feasting on seeds, roots, and aquatic invertebrates, Ruddy Ducks exhibit flexibility in their diet, allowing them to thrive in various wetland environments. Their feeding habits contribute to the ecological balance of their habitats, playing a crucial role in wetland ecosystems.

The story of Ruddy Duck conservation is one of habitat protection and wetland restoration. Their dependence on wetland ecosystems underscores the importance of conservation efforts focused on water quality and habitat complexity, ensuring the survival of these distinctive ducks.

14. Canvasback

  • Scientific name: Aythya valisineria
  • Life span: 10-15 years
  • Size: 48-56 cm (19-22 in)
  • Weight: 1,270-1,800 g (2.8-4 lb)
  • Wingspan: 84-89 cm (33-35 in)
  • Status: Vulnerable
  • State status: Migratory and less common

With its distinctive wedge-shaped head and elegant profile, the Canvasback is a sight to behold on lakes and marshes across North America. The male’s sleek, black bill contrasts strikingly with its red eyes, white body, and black chest, while the female’s brownish body and paler head and neck exude a subtle charm.

This species’ affinity for deep water distinguishes it from other ducks, making it a fascinating subject of admiration for birdwatchers.


Canvasbacks create their nests amidst dense marsh vegetation, laying 7-10 eggs. Their choice of location reflects a keen sense of security, ensuring their offspring are safeguarded in a floating bed of reeds and plants, hidden from predators.

Primarily vegetarians, Canvasbacks dive deep for aquatic plants, supplementing their diet with mollusks and insects when available. Their foraging technique underscores their adaptation to aquatic life, highlighting their role in maintaining healthy water ecosystems.

Canvasbacks have faced challenges due to habitat degradation and pollution. Conservation initiatives focus on improving water quality and restoring wetlands, essential steps to ensure the survival and growth of Canvasback populations across North America.

15. 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
  • State status: Migratory and common

The Lesser Scaup, found in lakes, rivers, and coastal bays across the Americas, is often the epitome of avian adaptability. The male’s iridescent black head, bright yellow eyes, and stippled grey body make it a standout in any setting, while the female’s muted brown plumage allows her to disappear into the landscape. Together, they paint a picture of the diversity and beauty found in aquatic environments.

Lesser Scaup

Lesser Scaups favor the solitude of northern lakes for their nesting, laying 8-10 eggs amidst the dense vegetation. Their nests, a blend of plant matter and feathers, symbolize the deep connection between these ducks and the secluded waterways they call home.

A diet rich in mollusks, aquatic insects, and plant seeds sustains the Lesser Scaup through its migratory journey. Their ability to forage both on water surfaces and underwater exemplifies their adaptability and resilience in varied aquatic environments.

Conservation for Lesser Scaups focuses on combating habitat loss and pollution, challenges exacerbated by climate change. Efforts aim to preserve the water quality and marshlands essential for their survival, reflecting a broader commitment to maintaining biodiversity.

16. Hooded Merganser

  • Scientific name: Lophodytes cucullatus
  • Life span: 6-12 years
  • Size: 40-49 cm (16-19 in)
  • Weight: 400-700 g (0.88-1.54 lb)
  • Wingspan: 63-76 cm (25-30 in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and less common

In the wooded ponds and rivers of North America, the Hooded Merganser steals the show. The male’s striking white crest, which can be expanded or contracted, is framed by black, highlighting bright yellow eyes and a dark, intricate body pattern.

Females exhibit a more understated elegance with their mottled brown plumage and smaller crest. Their distinctive silhouette and secretive nature make them a coveted sight among bird enthusiasts.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Mergansers select tree cavities near water to lay their eggs, crafting nests that are a testament to their reliance on the forested waterways. Their choice reflects an intricate connection between woodland and water habitats.

Specializing in small fish and aquatic invertebrates, Hooded Mergansers are adept divers. Their diet underscores their importance in aquatic food webs, balancing populations of their prey and maintaining the health of their freshwater habitats.

The story of Hooded Merganser conservation is one of habitat protection, particularly the preservation of mature forests and clean rivers. These efforts are vital for sustaining the delicate ecosystems that support these striking birds.

17. Red-breasted Merganser

  • Scientific name: Mergus serrator
  • Life span: 9-14 years
  • Size: 54-62 cm (21-24 in)
  • Weight: 700-1,600 g (1.5-3.5 lb)
  • Wingspan: 66-81 cm (26-32 in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and rare

With a bold, punk-like appearance, the Red-breasted Merganser is a fixture in coastal waters and lakes across the Northern Hemisphere. The male’s mottled brown and white body, topped with a dark green head and a striking red breast, commands attention.

Females, with their grey bodies and reddish-brown crests, maintain the species’ distinctive edge. Their specialized bill makes them adept hunters, adding to their rugged, untamed allure.

Red-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Mergansers craft their nests close to the water’s edge, often on islands or secluded shorelines, laying 8-12 eggs. Their choice reflects an instinctual drive for safety, balancing the need for proximity to feeding grounds with the vulnerability of ground nesting.

Predominantly piscivorous, Red-breasted Mergansers are skilled hunters, diving deep to catch fish. Their diet underlines their role as natural fish population controllers, a testament to their prowess and importance in aquatic ecosystems.

Conservation for Red-breasted Mergansers emphasizes maintaining clean, rich aquatic habitats and protecting nesting areas from disturbance. Their well-being is an indicator of the health of marine and freshwater ecosystems, guiding conservation priorities.

18. Common Goldeneye

  • Scientific name: Bucephala clangula
  • Life span: 6-12 years
  • Size: 40-51 cm (16-20 in)
  • Weight: 800-1,550 g (1.8-3.4 lb)
  • Wingspan: 66-81 cm (26-32 in)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and common

Diving into the cold waters of northern lakes and rivers, the Common Goldeneye is a striking figure. Males gleam with a greenish-black head adorned with a white circular patch below the eye, contrasting sharply with their crisp white body.

Females sport a chocolate brown head with a similar white neck patch, set against a greyish body. Their preference for northern climes and dramatic courtship displays make them a winter spectacle.

Common Goldeneye

Common Goldeneyes also favor cavities for nesting, laying 6-8 eggs. They’re known for their high nest site fidelity, often returning to the same area or even the exact nest year after year, a testament to their enduring bond with their birthplace.

Diving into cold, clear waters, Common Goldeneyes hunt for fish, crustaceans, and insects. Their prowess as hunters not only showcases their adaptation to aquatic life but also their role in maintaining the balance within their ecosystem.

Conservation efforts for Common Goldeneyes focus on preserving their nesting and foraging habitats. Protecting old-growth forests for nesting and maintaining clean, healthy waterways are crucial for their continued prosperity.

19. Cinnamon Teal

  • Scientific name: Spatula cyanoptera
  • Life span: 7-10 years
  • Size: 15-16 in (38-41 cm)
  • Weight: 12-15 oz (340-425 grams)
  • Wingspan: 24-26 in (61-66 cm)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and less common

Basking in the marshes and shallow lakes of the Americas, the Cinnamon Teal is a splash of warmth. Males are adorned in a rich, cinnamon-red plumage that sets them apart, with striking red eyes and dark bills enhancing their allure.

Females opt for a more subdued look, with soft brown feathers blending into the landscape. Their choice of habitat reflects a preference for the quieter, less disturbed corners of the world, where their beauty can shine undisturbed.

Cinnamon Teal

Cinnamon Teals craft their nests on the ground, tucked away in dense marsh vegetation, laying 8-12 eggs. Their choice of secluded, marshy areas for nesting underscores their connection to wetland ecosystems, a hidden gem among the reeds, nurturing the next generation.

Specializing in a diet of aquatic plants, seeds, and small invertebrates, Cinnamon Teals are dabblers that thrive in shallow waters. Their foraging habits not only reflect their ecological niche but also their contribution to the health and diversity of wetland environments.

Conservation efforts for Cinnamon Teals focus on the preservation and restoration of wetland habitats. Their dependence on these environments for breeding and feeding highlights the critical need for water conservation and wetland management strategies to ensure their populations remain robust.

20. Eurasian Wigeon

  • Scientific name: Anas penelope
  • Life span: 7-10 years
  • Size: 42–52 cm (17–20 inches)
  • Weight: 0.5–1 kg (1.1–2.4 lbs) ​
  • Wingspan: 71–80 cm (28–31 inches)
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Migratory and rare

Found across Europe, Asia, and parts of North America, the Eurasian Wigeon is a testament to the interconnectedness of global ecosystems. Males are resplendent with a reddish-brown head, topped with a creamy crown and a grey body, while females blend into their surroundings with mottled brown feathers.

Their presence in a variety of wetland habitats speaks to their adaptability and the universal appeal of watching wildlife in its natural state.

Eurasian Wigeon

Eurasian Wigeons nest on the ground, hidden in dense vegetation near water, laying 6-9 eggs. Their choice of nesting sites showcases an intrinsic understanding of the landscape, balancing the need for concealment with accessibility to feeding areas.

Primarily grazing on grasses and aquatic plants, Eurasian Wigeons occasionally supplement their diet with invertebrates. Their feeding habits emphasize the importance of wetland and grassland habitats, reflecting their role in these ecosystems’ health and diversity.

Conservation for Eurasian Wigeons focuses on international cooperation to protect wetlands along their migratory routes. Their journey across continents highlights the need for cross-border conservation efforts, ensuring the protection of vital habitats along their path.

21. Common Merganser

  • Scientific name: Mergus merganser
  • Life span: 5-12 years
  • Size: 22-25 in / 56-64 cm
  • Weight: 2.2-3.1 lbs / 1.0-1.4 kg
  • Wingspan: 26-30 in / 66-76 cm
  • Status: Least Concern
  • State status: Breeding and common

Graceful and streamlined, the Common Merganser frequents rivers and lakes across the Northern Hemisphere. Males boast a stark contrast between their dark green heads and crisp white bodies, punctuated by a thin red bill.

Females wear a softer look, with a cinnamon head and grey body. Known for their fishing prowess, these ducks add a layer of dynamism to their aquatic habitats, embodying the spirit of the wild waters they inhabit.

Common Merganser

Common Mergansers prefer nesting in tree cavities near water, laying 8-12 eggs. Their nesting habits highlight the essential role of riparian forests in supporting diverse bird populations, underlining the interconnectedness of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.

With a diet focused on fish, Common Mergansers play a critical role in aquatic ecosystems, controlling fish populations and contributing to the balance of their habitats. Their hunting skills are a marvel, showcasing the beauty of nature’s intricacies.

Efforts to conserve Common Mergansers include safeguarding their nesting habitats and promoting clean, healthy waterways. Addressing threats from pollution and habitat loss is key to ensuring the survival and flourishing of these majestic waterfowl.

Where to find Ducks in Montana

In Montana, the quest to find ducks takes enthusiasts through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the United States, from serene wetlands to the rugged, majestic rivers that carve through the state’s terrain.

Whether you’re a birdwatcher, a hunter, or simply someone who appreciates the beauty of nature, knowing where and how to find ducks in Montana can enhance your outdoor experience.

To successfully find ducks in Montana, timing and location are key. Spring and fall migrations are spectacular events, as thousands of ducks traverse the Montana skies, stopping at various water bodies to rest and feed.

During these times, wetlands and rivers become hotspots for duck activity. Early mornings and late afternoons are the best times for sightings, as ducks are most active during these periods.

Four prime areas for duck spotting in Montana include:

  • Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge: Nestled in the Bitterroot Valley, this refuge provides a variety of habitats, from wetlands to grasslands, attracting numerous duck species.
  • Freezout Lake Wildlife Management Area: Known for its spectacular waterfowl migrations, Freezout Lake is a must-visit during the spring and fall migration seasons.
  • Ninepipe and Pablo National Wildlife Refuges: Located in the Flathead Valley, these refuges offer ideal conditions for waterfowl and are excellent for observing a wide range of duck species.
  • Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge: Just north of Great Falls, Benton Lake’s shallow ponds and marshes attract thousands of migrating ducks every year.

For the best experience, equip yourself with a good pair of binoculars, a field guide to help identify different duck species, and a sense of adventure. Respectful observation, maintaining a safe distance to avoid disturbing the wildlife, ensures that Montana’s ducks continue to thrive in their natural habitats.


Exploring the diverse world of ducks in Montana reveals the state’s rich tapestry of ecosystems and the crucial roles these birds play within them. By understanding, appreciating, and protecting these species and their habitats, we ensure the continued vibrancy of Montana’s natural heritage for generations of wildlife enthusiasts to cherish.

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