Duck ID at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

Mallard ducks, male and female, in flight. Photo credit, Gary House.

By Shannah Cumberbatch

“Ducks and ducks and ducks, oh my!” Have you ever wandered near a body of water and wondered what kind of duck you were seeing? Me, either! However, after this quick read, you can impress your family and friends with bird facts. Quite a few waterfowl call the Gardens their home, especially during the migratory season.

American Black Ducks. Credit Rhododendrites of Wikimedia Commons.

Let’s explore some ducks you will likely encounter during your visit. The Mallard Duck is by far the most present. Female mallards have a more muted, brown feather pattern, whereas their male counterparts have vibrant, green head that is hard to miss. Pairs of females and males swim and forage together. Groups will rest next to one another along the grass pathways that connect the lotus and water lily ponds. Be mindful of your distance when meandering between the ponds, as sleeping ducks will move as you walk closer.


Wood Duck in DC. Photo Credit cliff1066™ of Wikimedia Commons.

Though not easy to see without binoculars, there is a difference between the color patterns on the wings of a Mallard Duck and the American Black Duck. Neither is to be confused with the Wood Duck or the Canada Goose. Both female and male Black Ducks are brown with yellow-orange bills, much like the female Mallard Duck. However, Black Ducks have darker feathers that appear black from a distance. Both Mallard Ducks and American Black Ducks have a distinct dark line near the eye that stretches from the bill past the eye toward the back of the head. See if you can spot the difference in person!


Be sure to stop by the park on a Tuesday morning from 8:30 am -10 am and join Volunteer Molly for a weekly Bird Walk. There will be ducks and more!

Female mallard and ducklings. Credit Erna Marcus.

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