There are about 120 species of ducks around the world, each having their own unique characteristics. However, there are some that stand out for possessing a strikingly beautiful plumage and others for their uncommon bills. Here are seven most beautiful and unusual ducks from around the world.
1. Smew Duck (Mergellus albellus)
One of the most beautiful ducks in the world, the smew duck is native to the northern forests of Europe and Asia. The elegant-looking species are occasionally found in Great Britain and North America but are not inhabitants of those regions. The breeding male is dressed in a strikingly black-and-white plumage with black patterns on the head, back, and breast, and possesses black eyes.
Meanwhile, the female counterpart has a chestnut-colored head, a white throat, and gray plumage overall. The common features in both the male and female in this species include a bushy crest and gray feet. These petite birds with short bills are diving ducks and are found in lakes, reservoirs, and rivers alone or sometimes in groups.
2. Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)
Native to the region of North America, the hooded merganser is known to boast an unmissable large crest that can be lowered or raised. These gorgeous birds are the second-smallest species of Merganser. The breeding plumage of the male is strikingly patterned with a black body and white stripes and posses sharp yellow-colored eyes.
The huge fan-shaped crest is white in color with a black outline. Meanwhile, the females are more drab and possess a rusty-colored crest. These small diving ducks are found mostly in freshwater ponds, lakes, and wetlands.
3. Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata)
One of the most gorgeous-looking ducks in the world, the mandarin duck is native to East Asia, including countries like China and Japan, but has been introduced to the world and is now spotted in parts of Russia, England, and Ireland. This distinctive species is a close relative to wood ducks and is found rarely in the wild. The male adult bird boasts a gorgeous orange, purple, white, and blue pattern of feathers, with a red bill, while the female boasts a gray head, bold pale dappled spots along the flanks, and a dull bill tip. In some Asian cultures, these ducks are considered as a symbol of love and are believed to be lifelong couples unlike other species of ducks.
4. Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis)
The most eye-catching feature of the long-tailed duck is its elongated, pointed, and slender tail feathers. This medium-sized species possesses a relatively small bill and prefers saltwater in winter and Arctic tundra pools in summer. A breeding male is covered with black, white, and gray patches. However, the female counterpart is brown overall. A notable aspect of the male is that its plumage changes drastically in winter and summer months. This duck is also known to dive deeper than any other duck and can go up to 200 feet below the surface of water in order to forage for food, according to Audubon, a guide to North American birds.
5. Knob-billed Duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos)
These large two-colored water birds are also known as comb ducks and reside in the tropical wetlands in Sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, India, and southeast Asia. This duck species is truly unmissable and is one of the largest ducks, with a wingspan ranging from 116 to 145 centimeters, according to Thai National Parks.
Both the male and female possess strikingly beautiful iridescent purplish-green feathers on their top side with a white or buffy breast. However, the male has a large black knob on its bill, which makes it more unique compared to the female. They can usually be spotted in freshwater swamps and lakes in the tropics.
6. Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata)
Inhabitants of North America, these large sea ducks can charm any bird watcher with their characteristic colorful bills that the males possess. Dressed in velvety black plumage with an eye-catching white patch on the forehead and the back of the neck, the male surf scoters stand out more than the females. Meanwhile, the female counterparts have a lighter black body, and their bills are greenish-black. These ducks are often spotted in harbors, bays, and coastal habitats.
7. King Eider (Somateria spectabilis)
One of the largest sea ducks, the King Eider lives in the Northern Hemisphere and has adapted itself to freezing climates. Found mainly on the coasts of northeast Europe, North America, and Asia, this species boasts a rather peculiar head shape and a rounded nape.
The breeding plumage of the male is much more colorful than the female. They possess a powder-blue nape, a green cheek, a red bill, and a yellowish forehead. Meanwhile, the females are a warm-brown color overall, and the blackish bill makes them look like she is smiling. During the summers, the king eider migrates to Arctic tundra to breed and tends to feed in freshwater lakes and ponds.
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