You won’t believe these charming black and white duck breeds! Because contrary to popular belief, not all duck breeds are white with yellow bills.
Many different breeds of ducks range in appearance and live all over the planet. They flock freely and widely throughout Asia, Northern Europe, and North America.
We’re talking about various types of white and black duck breeds, categorized by differences in their heads, necks, bills, feathers, wings, legs, tails, movement, behavior, and overall size.
Black and white ducks are those with predominantly, you guessed it, black and white plumage – like Ancona, Common Eider, Bufflehead, and Smew ducks.
Today, let’s explore some specifics about different species of black and white ducks, like:
- What they eat
- Their weight and size
- The environments they prefer
- Which are suitable for raising on a farm or homestead
Keep reading to learn about 8 of the most popular black and white duck breeds.
Are you as thrilled as I am?
OK – Here we go!
- Breeds of Black & White Ducks
- 1. Ancona Duck (Anas Platyrhynchos domesticus)
- 2. Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica)
- 3. Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)
- 4. Common Eider (Somateria mollissima)
- 5. Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)
- 6. Long-Tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis)
- 7. Ring-Necked Duck (Aythya collaris)
- 8. Smew (Mergellus albellus)
Breeds of Black & White Ducks
The eight species of black and white ducks we’ll get to know about here are:
- Ancona Duck (Anas Platyrhynchos domesticus)
- Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica)
- Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)
- Common Eider (Somateria mollissima)
- Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)
- Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis)
- Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris)
- Smew (Mergellus albellus)
A few minutes from now, you can dazzle your friends with your deep duck knowledge, and that’s always extra fun.
So, let’s stop quacking around and get to it!
1. Ancona Duck (Anas Platyrhynchos domesticus)
The Ancona domestic duck is a crossbreed of Huttegen and Runner ducks. This species is popular among farm owners, duck breeders, and homesteaders because these sociable ducks are strong, flightless, calm, and excellent foragers.
The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC) lists the conservation status of the Ancona as Critically Endangered, as it has since 2015. The Ancona’s endangered status is due (mostly) to habitat loss. So, today would be an excellent day to raise this domestic breed on your homestead or farm!
Ancona ducks CAN have white and black plumage. However, you’ll also find Anconas that are:
- Blue & White
- Silver/Gray & White
- Chocolate Brown & White
All Anconas have orange legs (sexy!) and curved-in, dark green/yellow bills. Also, the average adult Ancona weighs between 6 and 7 pounds (2.7 – 3.2 kg). Finally, Anconas remain a favorite breed for many because they produce very flavorful meat and eggs. Yummy!
2. Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica)
The Barrow’s Goldeneye duck gets its name after Sir John Barrow. According to The British Museum, he was an author, world traveler, and politician/statesman in England during the late 1700s and early-to-mid 1800s.
Well, how very sophisticated!
Today, you’ll find these abundant ducks in rivers, estuaries, coastal waters, bay inlets, unfrozen lakes, and other shallow water sources throughout Eastern Canada, Iceland, and the US. They are opportunistic eaters that enjoy consuming aquatic insects, fish eggs, plant material, crustaceans, and mollusks.
Unlike Common Goldeneyes, Barrow’s Goldeneyes typically have black-colored heads, tails, and backs, while their breasts, lower flanks, and cheeks are clean and white. Males also have white wing patches and sort-of-spooky yellow eyes.
Female Barrow’s Goldeneye ducks are different to look at than males, with their gray to brown bodies, dark brown heads, and striking yellow bills. And, in case you’re wondering, females can lay up to a dozen or more blue and green eggs at their nest site, and they typically hatch within 34 days of incubation.
This duck species weighs up to two pounds (0.9 kg). It is significantly smaller than the Ancona breed. They measure between 17 to 19 inches, head-to-tail, and show-off wing spans up to 30 inches.
3. Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)
Another member of the Bucephala genus, the Bufflehead duck, is smaller and more widely distributed than its Goldeneye relatives. You’ll find this less-than-2-pound duck species throughout Alaska, Western Canada, and Western Europe, as well as in the western US and the east and west US coastlines.
Buffleheads are excellent diving ducks that do most of their foraging completely underwater (not just their heads). They like to make nest sites in tree cavities and usually thrive best in deep ponds, inland lakes, and other sheltered water systems. They love eating aquatic plants!
According to Audubon, Bufflehead ducks:
- Measure up to 16 inches (41 cm) in length
- Have up to 22-inch (56 cm) wingspans
- Nest close to water inside trees
You can recognize a male Bufflehead by his shimmering purple/green head, black back, gray bill, and white wings and breasts.
Females have black rounded heads and backs, gray bodies, and patches of white underneath their eyes with some intermixed black feathers. These flying ducks migrate and are probably not best for homesteaders.
4. Common Eider (Somateria mollissima)
“Common Eiders pluck down feathers from their breast to create toasty-warm nest sites. For more than 1,000 years, people have used precious eiderdown to keep warm—gathering down from empty nest boxes.” – The Cornell Lab, All About BirdsCornell University, Common Eider Overview
This duck species are known worldwide and are especially common in eastern Siberia, northern Europe, and North America. During the breeding season, they migrate to all areas of the world, including Alaska, northeast Asia, Greenland, the Arctic, Iceland, and northeast Canada, to name several. They are not a domestic duck breed.
Frequently called Cuddy ducks, or St. Cuthbert’s ducks, Somateria mollisima ducks typically measure up to 28 inches long. And top out in weight at about 6 pounds. They are large waterfowl. Their primary diets include small fish, aquatic insects, some aquatic vegetation, and mollusks. This duck breed prefers to nest close to the water on the ground.
Males feature light-yellow bills, black underparts and crowns, and white upper wings, backs, and breasts. Females are spotted brown. And, like many bird species, they are not nearly as colorful as the males. Female Eiders lay as many as eight olive-grey eggs, which require between 23 and 30 days of incubation.
Half-Time Duck Joke
A man struts into a saloon with a ruddy duck on his head. The bartender exclaims, “Sir, you have a duck on your head!” Disgusted, the duck replies, “You mean I have a man under my butt!”
HA – Gotcha!
Now, let’s review our last four black and white duck breeds.
I already know this Is FUN!
5. Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)
Lophodytes cucullatus, or Hooded Merganser ducks, are found throughout Canada. But especially in Southern Canada. They also flock throughout the United States, especially in the Pacific Northwest, as well as in Delaware, Mississippi, and Texas.
These beautiful compact ducks are smaller than their Red-breasted Merganser cousins. But heftier than the Bufflehead. They’re about the size of an average crow (Corvus). The average measurements of a Hooded Merganser, regardless of sex, are:
- 15.8 – 9.3 inches (40 – 49 centimeters) in length
- 16.0 – 31.0 ounces (453 – 879 grams) in weight
- 23.6 – 26.0 inches (60 – 66 centimeters) wing span
“Hooded Mergansers are small, slender ducks with a thin bill, pointy tail, and a fan-shaped, collapsible crest that makes the head look oversized and oblong. In flight, the wings are thin, and the tail is relatively long and rounded.” – The Cornell Lab, All About BirdsCornell University, Hooded Merganser Identification
A typical male adult Hooded Merganser features a black head with a large white patch that changes appearance when its feathers are crested. Males also have white wing patches and breasts with chestnut-colored flanks. They make very unusual noises, especially during the breeding season. That’s just the nature of ducks, I guess.
Lophodytes cucullatus female ducks are rather drab-looking. They have yellowish cinnamon-colored heads, gray to brown plumage, and black patches on their bodies. They typically lay up to a dozen white eggs at their nest sites that require about 33 days of incubation.
Hooded Mergansers are expert diving ducks that thrive in various habitats, including:
- Freshwater lakes
- Shallow wetlands
- Protected saltwater bays
- Swamps (not DC, though!)
These slim ducks like to eat delicious aquatic insects, mollusks, crayfish, some submerged vegetation, mollusks, fish eggs, and small fish. You’ll most likely find their nest sites in tree cavities located close to water.
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6. Long-Tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis)
Ah, Clangula hyemalis, the ol’ Long-Tailed duck found as far away as the Arctic. And also throughout the Great Lakes, the brutal Bering Sea, and Hudson Bay. They love and thrive in coastal waters, deep lakes and ponds, open waters, icy waters, and even the tundra.
These medium-sized ducks are heavy-bodied and short-billed, with pointed dark-colored wings spanning about 28 inches (51 cm). They’re medium-sized ducks, weighing about two pounds and measuring 18 and 24 inches long. Interestingly, these ducks used to be called oldsquaw in the United States.
“In breeding plumage, the male has a long, black tail-plume, a white rump and belly, and black breast. The head and back are black, with brown shoulders and a white patch around the eye. In winter, the brown on the back is replaced by white, and the head is white with a gray cheek patch.” – The Seattle Audobon SocietySeattle Audubon Society, Long-Tailed Duck Profile
During springtime, female long-tailed ducks are gray with white behinds, neck napes, and eye surrounds. During wintertime, her plumage color changes. Her face will turn white. She also develops brown feathers and a dark cheek patch and crown. Juveniles look similar to females except with more face whiteness.
This Excitement Now Continues!
7. Ring-Necked Duck (Aythya collaris)
Ringneck ducks are found widely throughout Alaska, Canada, and North America, especially in the northern states. These migratory birds thrive in diverse habitats, including marshes, lakes, ponds, shallow wetlands, estuaries, coastal bays, and rivers. They flock to open areas around forested regions.
And I’m happy to report that their numbers have been stable since the 1930s. And they continue to become a more popular breeding bird, particularly in the eastern parts of Canada and the northern regions of New England.
You’re likely to see these wild birds on any unfrozen body of water, especially nearby dead trees. They love gobbling fish eggs, aquatic vegetation, and mollusks. However, surprisingly, they do not tend to flock near saltwater bays.
“A strong and fast flier. It can take flight by springing up directly from the water without the laborious take-off run of most diving ducks.” – National Audobon SocietyAudubon, Ring-Necked Duck Profile
You can spot a ringneck duck by its black peaked head and body. That couples with white underparts and wings and a rather pointy tail. It also has those piercing yellow eyes that I find rather spooky, especially when making distinctive whistling noises.
You may also notice white patterns on their (mostly) black and powerful bills. And, of course, there is a brown ring around their necks, but, in most cases, it’s so subtle that you won’t be able to see it without a close examination. Such fancy plumage!
Aythya collaris ducks are small to medium-sized ducks measuring approximately 18 inches long. And they typically weigh between 16 and 34 ounces. Their lovely wingspans measure around 25 inches (64 cm) on the larger side.
8. Smew (Mergellus albellus)
There’s an old poem about silent ducks, I believe it’s Icelandic, and it goes:
“Ah, the distinctive black-eyed Smew
A duck-like no other I knew
You’re so serene, with no known call
Perhaps you’re the quietest duck of all.”
I just made that up, and it isn’t really an ancient Icelandic poem. I’m sorry.
However, Mergellus albellus isn’t famous for its call sounds, which is rare in the duck world! So much so that I felt driven to write a little rhyme about it.
(Male Smew ducks make a smew sound. However, it’s a little-known quirk that these birds possess.)
Smews are small ducks that measure up to about 17 inches (43 cm) in length and weigh up to about 24 ounces. The typical Smew wingspan measures 22 – 27 inches.
- Black spots around their eyes and cheeks
- Black and white bodies
- Black bills
Female Smews have (rather drab) gray bodies and bills. They also have chestnut-colored heads with white-patched necks.
Relatives of Goldeneye ducks, these water birds thrive in various habitats throughout Alaska, Asia, Northern Europe, and North America, particularly on California’s Pacific coast. They like living in coastal waters, edges of lakes, permanent wetlands, large ponds, and slow-moving rivers.
Ducks are my favorite birds! Most of the black and white duck breeds we’ve reviewed here are wild ducks not well-suited for most farming and homesteading purposes.
If you want to raise ducks as companion animals or for meat or eggs, you’re better off going with a calm, domesticated breed, like Anas Platyrhynchos domesticus, the domesticated Ancona.
Before I sign off, for now, wanna hear a duck joke I just made up?
OK – I knew you would!
Here it goes:
What did the black and white duck say to the dirty red chicken?
“Watch out, ground bird, or I’ll kick you with my big, webbed foot and then send you a Bill!”
Get it? A bill!
HA – Gotcha again!