Minnesota Hunter Safety Course



Diving Ducks



(Aythya valisineria)

The canvasback can reach 19 to 24 inches in length. The male has a white body with a black chest and tail. The female's body is a more gray color, with a darker gray chest and tail; both have reddish heads. They typically breed from Alaska to Nebraska and Minnesota. They will winter eastward to Massachusetts south toward the Gulf Coast. Flocks are long and V-shaped. The canvasback is considered by some to be the best tasting waterfowl species in North America.



(Aythya americana)

The redhead is sometimes confused as a canvasback due to the similar coloration of the males. However similar, the redhead's feathers are greyer in color, and its head is not as 'sloped' as the canvasback. Generally this species will feed during the night, and rest on the water during the daytime. They are known to breed from Alaska and British Columbia to Minnesota, and as far south as California and Colorado. For the winter they will migrate to the southern United States, but some will remain in the Great Lakes region.



(Aythya collaris)

The ringneck is named as such because of the subtle purplish ring around the base of its neck. However, it has a much more distinct white ring around its bill close to the tip that is also unique to the species. Its range covers most of Canada and the United states, and down into Mexico.  It is absent in the Arctic Tundra.



(Aythya marila, Aythya affinis)

The scaup looks similar to the ringneck however it does not have the white ring around its bill. There are two sub-sprcies: the greater and lesser scaup The greater scaup is mainly found in mid-to-northern Canada and its migration is limited to the northern United States. The lesser scaup is one of the most widespread diving ducks in North America. They are found throughout the US and Mexico during winter months, and as far north as the Arctic Tundra in the summer.



(Bucephala clangula, Bucephala islandica)

The Goldeneye is a medium-sized duck with a large head. There are two species: the common goldeneye that has a greenish-black head with bright oval white patch on its face at the base of the bill. The Barrow's goldeneye has a purplish-black head with a crescent-shaped white patch in the same location. The goldeneye is one of the last birds to migrate south in the fall. They will often migrate as the water starts to freeze, and will only go as far south as required to access open water.



(Bucephala albeola)

The bufflehead is considered to be the smallest diving duck in North America. Its distinct color pattern is unmistakable. Dur to its small size, it is often able to take a springing leap into the air to take flight. It is also one of the few ducks that nests in trees - almost exclusively in holes that have previously been excavated by Northern Flickers. The bufflehead is found throughout North America, and is found in most northern states year-round.


Ruddy Duck

(Oxyura jamaicensis)

The ruddy duck is small, with a blue bill and white patches on its cheeks. It is also one of the rare duck species that is "stiff tailed" and will often point their tail upward in display. It is mainly fond in marshes in the western and central United States into western Minnesota. It may also occasionally be found along the eastern coastline in the wintertime.  


Puddle Ducks


(Anas platyrhynchos)

The mallard is one of the most easily-recognizable ducks, with its green head and the white ring around its neck, and is one of the most abundant ducks in the world. It is found throughout North America, Central America, Europe and Asia; always on open water such as lakes, ponds, marshes and bays. The mallard's courtship starts in early fall, forming pairs in early to mid-winter. The pair then migrates to the female's place of origin.


(Anas actua)

The pintail is more slender than the mallard, with a longer neck. The female is very similar in coloration to the mallard female, but is a little paler, gray, and have a more pointed tail. Pintails are a very common duck throughout North America, but are predominately found in western states. They mainly reside on calm freshwater bodies such as marshes or ponds, but are also found on tundra, and sometimes on saltwater marshes in the wintertime.


Blue-Winged Teal

(Anas discors)

The blue-winged teal gets its name from the patch of blue feathers on its wings. In the summer they are found throughout most of Canada and the northern United States. They are known to spend winter months in southern California and Texas, through to the tropics of Central America.


Green-Winged Teal

(Anas crecca)

A slightly smaller duck than their blue-winged relatives, at 15 inches and with a distinct patch of green feathers on their fur, these ducks are among the last to reach their winter habitat in the fall, and are the first to head back up north in the spring. Pairs will return to the breeding place of the female. They are a relatively fast duck, considering their size.


Cinnamon Teal

(Anas cyanoptera)

Though the male of this species is easily distinguishable from other duck species, the female is often undifferentiated from the female blue-winged teal in the field. Generally this species is found in the West, intermixed in flocks of blue-winged teals.


Wood Duck

(Aix sponsa)

The wood duck is found on wooded rivers, ponds and swamps, and nest in trees close to the water source. Due to their stunning colouration, they were hunted nearly to extinction in the early 1900's. Their numbers have since risen, and there is now an estimated 1 million wood ducks across North America today. They are found on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, but are absent from the Rocky Mountains and Great Plains.



(Anas strepera)

A relatively small, plainly colored duck. They have a black bill and a black end. The gadwall is usually one of the first species to migrate in the fall, and among the last to head north in the spring. They are not a very common duck, but their range extends over most of the United States, Mexico and parts of the Caribbean. 



(Anas americana)

The american wigeon generally breeds in the northwestern-most part of North America, and is found throughout all of North America throughout the year. The drake is also sometimes referred to as the "baldplate" because of the white forehead. It is one of the most common ducks that you will find feeding on land rather than in the water.



(Anas clypeata)

The shoveler is easily recognized, and is found in most of North America's wetlands throughout the year. Its bill is about 2.5 inches long and spoon-shaped, with about 110 fine comb-like projections along its edges, allowing it to filter food from the water very efficiently. 


Black Duck

(Anas rubripes)

A medium-sized duck primarily found in the eastern of United States and are seldom found west of Minnesota or the eastern half of Texas. The number of black duck was of concern in the mid-20th century, however conservation efforts throughout North America has lead to a rise in their numbers. They are known to frequently occupy salt-water marshes and the ocean coast.


Other Waterfowl


Trumpeter Swan

(Cygnus buccinator)

The trumpeter swan's numbers reduced to near extinction in the early 1900's however their numbers have increased and they are relatively common today. Their breeding grounds are spotty throughout North America and include places such as the Alaskan coast, the Canadian Rocky Mountains, parts of South Dakota, and most of the Great Lake states. It is the largest of waterfowl found in North America, all white with a black bill. Be careful not to mistake this swan for a snow goose! This species, like all swans, is protected and cannot be hunted.


Snow Goose

(Chen caerulescens)

The snow goose breeds on the arctic tundra and migrates as far south as Mexico in the winter. Since most appear all-white, inexperienced hunters might mistake them for trumpeter swans. However they are much smaller than the swan, have black-tipped wings and a pink-orange bill. The "blue morph" snow goose has a white head and front, with a dark grayish-brown body. Generally they will travel in large flocks during migration.


Ross's Goose

(Chen rossil)

Ross's goose is a small white goose that is often considered a "mini-version" of the snow goose.  They also breed in the arctic and on the coast of the Georgian bay, and are most frequent in central California in the winter. However their numbers are increasing, and some now migrate down toward northern Texas and Oklahoma using the central flyway. The dark-colored "morph" ross goose is quite rare but is very similar in color to the blue-morph snow goose.


White-Fronted Goose

(Anser albifrons)

The white-fronted goose has one of the largest ranges of any species of geese in the world.  Its breeding ground is found in the tundra from Nunavut westward into Siberia, and they are also found in Greenland. A sub-species is also found in northern Europe and Asia. In the United States, they are only found west of the Mississippi River.


Canada Goose

(Branta canadensis)

The most abundant and widely recognized goose in North America, Canada geese are often called honkers because of their call. They are often considered pests since they travel in large, numerous flocks that are often found in urban parks, golf courses, airports, back yards and farmer's fields to feed. They are one of the most popular game birds for waterfowl hunters, however their numbers are increasing every year.