Duck Identification - Arkansas Duck Hunting

Use this reference to become familiar with and identify the various species of ducks and geese you may encounter this season in Arkansas. All species listed below migrate along the Mississippi Flyway. The hunting season and bag limits of all species listed here are regulated under federal and state migratory game bird guidelines.


Latin Name: Anas platyrhynchos

Mallard Drake in FlightWith the drake’s distinct green head and a North American population of approximately 9 million, the mallard is the most-recognized and abundant duck species in the United States. Drakes are large, averaging over 3 pounds with a striking green head, yellow-green bill, white-ringed throat, brown chest, silver gray belly and sides, and orange or red legs. Hens are mottled light brown and both sexes have speculum feathers of purple/blue edged in white.


Latin Name: Anas stepera

Gadwall Drake DuckGadwall drakes aren’t as colorful as most of the other species. Often mistaken for mallard hens, gadwall drakes have a white belly, black rump and gray-brown body. The feet and legs are yellow and they have a gray blue bill. Gadwall hens are mottled brown andwhite with a yellow-orange bill. Gadwalls are common along the Mississippi Flyway and are the third most-harvested duck species, behind mallards and green-winged teals, in the United States.

American Wigeon

Latin Name: Anas Americana

American Wigeon Drake DuckWigeon drakes have rosy-brown sides and breasts with a white belly. Their heads are brown with black speckles and a center white streak with a green patch around the eyes. Gray legs and feet. Bill is gray with black tip. The hens have necks and heads of pale brown and ivory with a dark brown crown. White bellies pink-brown sides.

Spoonbill / Shoveler

Latin Name: Anas clypeata

Spoonbil / Shoveler DrakeThese ducks filter food from water using their distinctively shaped bills. Drakes have a green head, white breast and reddish brown sides with a black, shovel-shaped bill. Hens are mottled brown with a yellow/orange bill.

Northern Pintail

Latin Name: Anas acuta

Northern Pintail Drake DuckNicknamed the greyhound of the air, Northern pintails have long, slender bodies and wings. Drakes have brown heads with white throats and bellies. Hens are mottled brown or bronze with dark gray or black bills. Pintails are often some of the earliest migrating arrivals.

Green-Winged Teals

Latin name: Anas crecca

Green-Winged Teal DrakeThe green-wing teals are the smallest of the American dabbling ducks. Fast and agile flyers, these ducks feed on the water’s surface or near shore, but will dive deep when threatened by a predator. Drakes have a chestnut brown head with iridescent green eye streak, black bill, white belly and gray sides and back. Hens are mottled brown with gray bills speckled with black. Both males and females have a distinct glossy green speculum. Despite being the nation’s second most hunted duck (after the mallards) the population of green-wing teals continues to increase.

Wood Duck

Latin name: Aix sponsa

Wood Duck - DrakeThe drakes of this species are widely considered to be the most beautiful ducks in the world. The males feature colorful plumage including a crested head of green, blue and purple that they display to females. Drakes have reddish brown chests , white throats and chins and purple-gray backs. With a black-tipped red bill and bright red eyes highlighted by the white stripe above, wood drakes have a very distinct face. As with most species, the hens’ coloring is more subdued. Wood hens are a dark gray with white-ringed eyes. Their brown-gray chests, sides and rumps contrast with white bellies, throats and chins. Flying wood ducks can be identified by a distinct head-bobbing motion.

American Black

Latin name: Anas rubribes

American BlackDespite its name, the American black duck is actually brown. Similar in appearance to mallard hens, American black ducks are easy to distinguish in flight by their white under wings. Males have a yellow bill while females have green bills.


Latin name: Aythya Americana

Redhead Duck - DrakeRedheads are slightly smaller than mallards and darker than canvasbacks. Known for its dramatic flight maneuvers, redheads sometimes drop from impressive heights at tremendous speed. Drakes have bright red, round heads and dark gray bodies. Eyes are bright yellow or orange. Hens look similar to scaup hens and have a white ringed bill. The hens are relatively late nesters and often lay their eggs in the nests of other ducks.


Latin name: Aythya valisineria

Canvasback Duck - DrakeSome of the fastest ducks, the flight speed of canvasbacks has been recorded as high as 74 mph. The drakes are quite handsome with a chestnut colored, black banded and wedge-shaped head, bright red eyes and a black bill. The neck and rump are black with contrasting white flanks, sides and chests. Hens have pale brown heads and chests, a paler, almost white neck, black rumps and dark brown mottled flanks and backs.

Greater and Lesser Scaup

Latin names: Aythya marila (greater) & Aythya affinis (lesser)

Greater Scaup Duck - DrakeOften found together, the greater and lesser scaup ducks are distinguished by size. Drakes have dark black heads tinted with iridescent green with black necks, and breasts. The back, belly and flanks are white. Bills are blue gray with a black rim, feet and legs are gray. Hens are mottled brown with white patches on their gray bills.

Geese Identification - Hunting

Canada Goose

Latin name: Branta Canadensis

Canada GooseCanadian geese have a lifespan of up to 30+ years and the subspecies Giant Canada is the largest goose in the world, sometimes exceeding 30 lbs. Both males and females have black heads and necks with white cheek patches. The breast, belly and rump ranges in color from dark brown to gray with a white collar. The legs, feet and bill are black.

Snow Goose

Latin name: Anser caerulescens

Snow GooseThe greater and lesser snow goose are distinguished by size. With their snowy white bodies and wings, the snow goose is easily identified. Nicknamed “sky carp” and “lutefisk with feathers” by hunters, the meat of a snow goose requires a good recipe and careful preparation.

White-Fronted or Specklebelly Goose

Latin name: Anser albifrons

Specklebelly GooseBoth males and females have a gray-brown body with dark brown rumps and tails edged in white. The nickname specklebelly comes from the black or dark brown speckles on the chest and belly. Named for the band of white at the base of its pink bill, the white-fronted goose is known for its especially tasty meat.

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