11 Ducks that Can Swim Underwater

Ducks that Can Swim Underwater

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We all know ducks spend more time swimming in water than walking on the ground. Do you know that a few duck breeds that are recklessly referred to as “sea ducks” dive deep into the water to search for food. The ducks that have the ability to dive underwater are;

  • Stifftail
  • Eiders
  • Scoters
  • Merganser
  • Goldeneyes
  • Bufflehead
  • Long-tailed duck
  • Canvasbacks
  • Redheads
  • Scaup
  • Ring-necked duck

Ducks that Can Swim Underwater

1. Stifftail


The stiff tailed duck that originates from North America builds its home in marshy lakes and ponds. Their nest is entirely made from grass and can be found behind tall vegetation near water. The ruddy ducks live on aquatic insects, crustaceans, and seeds and roots of aquatic plants.

Stifftail, which is commonly referred to as ruddy duck, has a small round body, short wings, and long spiky tail feathers. The stiff tailed duck takes help from its long spiky tail feathers to dive deep under the water. 

These diving ducks hardly come on the ground they are even eating and sleeping on water. Like most of their fellas, they are migratory birds that move to less cold regions when the water in lakes and ponds freezes.

Distinguishing feature

Scoop shaped bills, short neck, blackish caps, white cheeks, long stiff tails.

Average weight

3 to 3.5 lbs

Average length 

35 to 43 cm

2. Eiders


Eider, the sea duck is distributed over eastern Siberia, North America, and the northern coast of Europe. It is more commonly known as St. Cuthbert’s duck and cuddy’s duck. This diving sea duck is admired for flying at the speed of 113 km/h.

The eider ducks find their home in places near the sea. These ducks are bulky and have large, wedge-shaped bills. The male eider ducks are recognized by the black and white plumage and green nape. The females belonging to this community appear unique among the regular duck breed because of their size and head shape.

This eider is probably the only duck that flies faster despite being the heaviest duck in The United Kingdom. It majorly survives on shellfish; mussels. The eider ducks usually live up to eighteen years.

Distinguishing feature

Patched head, pinkish breast, yellow-grey bill.

Average weight

1.8 to 6.7 lbs

Average length

50 to 71cm

3. Scoters


Scoters, the stocky sea ducks, belong to the Anatidae birds family. They are generally referred to as Scoters but in some parts of the world, they are distinguished from the other duck breed with the “sea coot” name.

Scooters are tough, hardy, and excellent swimmers. The male scooters are usually shiny black and they often get admired for their spectacular color whereas, the females have a little browner than the males.

Distinguishing feature

Yellow coloration around nostrils, bulky shape, and large bill 

Average weight

2 to 2.2 lbs

Average length

40 to 47 cm

4. Merganser


Merganser is another large sea duck that builds their homes in tree holes near the rivers and lakes of Europe, Asia, and America. Besides tree cavities, they also consider large nest boxes their home with an entrance hole of 15 cm.

The merganser usually searches for fishes, worms, insect larvae, and mollusks to fulfill the food requirements. The mergansers have a habit of hunting down their prey in flocks. 

They are also migratory birds so as the water freezes in winter they start searching for the places where the water is still open. Female Mergansers are dedicated mothers as they do not leave their offsprings until they reach maturity.

Distinguishing feature

Narrow bills

Average weight

2.0 to 4.6 lbs

Average length

58 to 72 cm

5. Goldeneyes


Goldeneyes is an aggressive, territorial medium-sized duck that dives deep in the lakes and rivers in search of food. This sea duck has got this name because of its prominent golden-yellow eyes.

A huge number of goldeneye ducks are found near the lakes and rivers of boreal forest spreading across northern Russia, the Baltic States, Scandinavia, Canada, and the Northern United States. The goldeneye ducks like most of the regular duck breeds look for the tree cavities near lakes and rivers to build their homes.

They dive underwater to hunt for crustaceans, aquatic insects, and mollusks. The goldeneye ducks are often hunted by owls, hawks, and eagles.

Distinguishing feature

The white patch below the eye, greenish glossy head, white neck, and belly

Average weight

2.0 to 2.2 lbs

Average length

45 to 51 cm

6. Bufflehead


The buffleheads are the smallest American duck that can be easily recognized by unusual head shape. A huge population of bufflehead ducks is breeding around the lakes and ponds of Alaska and Canada.

The males and females belonging to the community can be easily recognized because the males have black, white, green, and purple heads whereas the females are a little grey toned. The male and female buffleheads both have white eye patches under their eyes.

Unlike regular ducks, they are never seen gathering in large flocks instead they prefer to roam around in pairs. Buffleheads often get hunted by weasels and minks etc. These ducks dive in the water to catch crustaceans, mollusks, fish eggs for food. Aquatic plants are also a great source of nutrition for the buffleheads.

Distinguishing feature

White eye patch under the eye, bufflehead

Average weight

1 to 1.201 lbs

Average length

30 to 40 cm

7. Long-tailed duck


This medium-sized long-tailed duck is found in Tundra pools and mountain lakes of Canada, Alaska, the North Atlantic Region, North America, Northern Europe, and Russia. The long-tailed duck is locally known as “oldsquaw”.

Both male and female long-tailed ducks have white underparts whereas the rest of the body has a complex molting process.  As their name suggests, these sea ducks have a fairly long tail that is 10 to 15 cm long.

The long-tailed ducks call or alert each other by making “ow, ow, owal-ow” sounds. Like most diving sea ducks, they mainly survive on crustaceans, fishes, and mollusks. The long-tailed ducks can surprisingly go much deeper in water than any other sea duck. They use their wings to dive in the water. 

Distinguishing feature

Long pointed tail, white neck, dark breast

Average weight

1.60 to 1.63 lbs

Average length

10 to 20 cm

8. Canvasbacks


This diving sea duck that is found in North America is more or less similar to the mallard duck except for the heavier more compacted build. The canvasbacks are admired for distinctive wedge-shaped heads and long graceful necks.

The male canvasback ducks can be identified by their chestnut redhead, grayish-black, blackish-brown tail, black bill, and breast whereas the females have a black bill and a light brown head, and chest.

The canvasbacks prefer to build their homes near-permanent Prairie marshes that are shrouded by bulrushes and cattails. The canvasback ducks eat a variety of food including seeds, buds, leaves, tubers, snails, insects, dabbling, and larvae.

Distinguishing feature

Chestnut redhead and plain grayish-white backs.

Average weight

1.900 to 3.527 lbs

Average length

48 to 53 cm

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9. Redheads


The red headed ducks or red headed pochard belongs to the ducks, swans, and geese family called “Anatidae”.  The red headed ducks rarely come on the ground as the placement of their legs makes it difficult for them to walk. Because of the difficulty to walk on the ground, they build their nest with hard stems, bulrush, cattails, and sedges quite near to the standing still water.

The males are mainly grey with a copper red head and white belly whereas the females have brown breast, yellow-brown head, white belly. In the breeding seasons, the majority of the population is found near the lakes and rivers of North America, Northern Canada, and the Caribbean.

Their rest of the year is usually spent roaming around in the intermontane regions of Alberta, Manitoba, Dakota, Ontario, and British Columbia, etc. The head-head ducks hardly get hunted down; they naturally die of common diseases and human impact.

Distinguishing feature

Lobed hind toe, redheads

Average weight

2.0 to 2.5 lbs

Average length 

50 to 55.8 cm

10. Scaup


Scaup or bluebill is a sea duck that breeds across Eurasia and Nearctic regions. The scaup males are identified by dark breasts and grayish backs whereas the females look prominent with white patches around the bluebills.

These migratory birds spend most of their winters in North America, Europe, Japan, and summers in  Alaska, northern Canada, Siberia, and Europe. The scaup mostly becomes owls, skunks, coyotes, raccoons, and humans prey. They live on eating aquatic plants, insects, and mollusks.

Distinguishing feature

White patches around bluebill

Average weight

2.00 to 2.4 lbs

Average length

39 to 46 cm

11. Ring-necked duck


The American ring-necked duck is found around the wooded lakes of the northern United States and Canada but in the breeding season, the majority of ring-necked ducks gather around in Northwest boreal forest territory. The ring-necked ducks tend to eat earthworms, leeches, midges, and snails. Because of the prominent white ring around the bill, they got named ” ring-necked duck”

Distinguishing feature

Prominent white ring on the bill, Blackheads, and backs.

Average weight

1.08 to 2 lbs

Average length

39 to 46 cm

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