While there are many types of ducks in South Carolina, the most common is the diving duck. There are 16 different types of diving ducks to be seen in South Carolina. These ducks are most often seen in the deeper, large lakes, rivers, coastal bays, and even the inlets of our fair state.
The species as a whole have short tails, paddle feet, and colored wing patches. Their diet is mostly aquatic plants, shellfish, fish, and mollusks.
In this listicle, we’ll tell you a bit about the common diving duck and where you can see them.
The 16 Most Common Duck Breeds in South Carolina
1. Black Scoter (Melanitta americana)
The Black Scoter grows to around 19½ inches and weighs around 2½ pounds on average. This duck is mostly found on the coastal flyways of South Carolina and off the coast during the winter season.
Scoters survive on mostly fish, mollusks, and a bit of vegetation. Their preferred habitat for breeding is shallow lakes, and during the winter season, they tend to stay close to the beaches.
2. Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)
The Bufflehead is very small and has a black and white, bold color pattern. They average 14½ inches in length and weigh around one pound. They are found in all flyways and in South Carolina during the winter season.
They live in freshwater ponds and small lakes. In addition, they can be found in saltwater coves and harbors during the winter, among other places. Their food choices include primarily aquatic invertebrates and a few seeds from time to time.
3. Canvas Back (Aythya valisinera)
These ducks feature a large body and a sloping profile, which makes them easy to tell from other duck breeds in South Carolina. It has a white body, rusty head, and black chest. They average around 22 inches in length and weigh in at an average weight of 3 pounds.
They live in all of the flyways but tend to be in South Carolina during the winter season. Their preferred habitat is fresh water in the summer season. In the winter, you can spot them mostly in shallow bays, harbors, and deep freshwater lakes.
Their food choice includes plants and animals during the breeding season. However, in the winter, they tend to stick to plants or the occasional clam when the pickings are slim in the food department.
4. Common Eider (Somateria mollissima)
The Common Eider features bold black and white coloring with wedge-shaped heads that are distinctive. In addition, they have long bills and thick necks. Their average length is 23½ inches, and they weigh around 5 pounds.
They tend to populate the Alaskan coast and New England. They are very rare to see in South Carolina but have been spotted before. Their preferred habitat is coastal islands and low-lying inlets when they are in the breeding season. However, in winter, they can be found in outer coastal areas instead.
Their food choices are primarily mollusks and other benthic invertebrates.
5. Common Merganser (Mergus merganser)
The Common Merganser is one of the largest of South Carolina’s duck population. It’s white with a green head and a very sharp, red bill. It grows around 25½ inches lengthwise and weighs about 2½ pounds.
They are spotted most often in all flyways. Their preferred habitat during the breeding season is lakes and rivers that are bordered by mature forests. But they rarely visit South Carolina during the winter season. In the winter, they prefer to be in freshwater lakes.
Their food choices lean towards small fish, but they will eat frogs, plants, and small mammals as well.
6. Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
The Common Goldeneye is a duck of medium size. You can recognize it easily by its black head and back, and also by the white patch it has on its cheek. They grow to around 19 inches long and weigh in at an average of 2¼ pounds.
This breed can be found in all four flyways, but they tend to visit South Carolina during the winter season. Their preferred habitat is flying south late in the season and spending the winters hanging out in coastal waters and lakes.
Their food choices include fish, spawn, and vegetation, but they prefer aquatic invertebrates.
7. Greater Scaup (Aythya marila)
The Greater Scaup is larger than the Lesser Scaup and has a light band near his trailing wings. They grow to around 18½ inches in length and weigh in at around 2 pounds.
This breed can be found most often in coastal flyways but can be found in all flyways as well. They are found on the coast of South Carolina, but only in the winter. Their preferred habitat is lakes, inlets, and bays. However, in the winter, they settle exclusively in marine habitats instead.
Foodwise, they eat a quite varied diet, according to the season they’re in at the time and what’s available to them.
8. Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus)
The Harlequin Duck is a glossy, slate blue duck that has white stripes and spots. They reach an average of 17 inches in length and weigh around 1½ pounds.
This breed can be found from the north of New Jersey and San Francisco. However, they are rare in South Carolina, and little is known about their eating habits.
9. Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)
The Hooded Merganser features a bold black and white pattern and an exaggerated crest. They average 18 inches in length and weigh about 1½ pounds.
Found in all flyways, they are mostly found in South Carolina during the winter, though some choose to stay here year-round. They prefer forested wetlands, but in the winter months, they tend to flock to shallow freshwater instead.
The average range for these ducks tends to range from fish to aquatic insects.
10. Long-Tailed Duck (Clanguta hyemalis)
The Long-Tailed Duck is a sea duck that has a slim appearance and bright plumage. They also have extremely long tail feathers, so they should be easy to spot. They average 20½ inches in length and weigh about 2 pounds.
This breed is found in all flyways but is most often seen on the coast. Though they have been spotted, this breed is extremely rare to see in South Carolina during the winter season. They are most often found in large freshwater lakes during the winter and frequent subarctic wetlands in the summer.
Their main food is of the animal variety, but it’s all according to where they are and what they can find.
11. Red-Breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)
The Red-Breasted Merganser is a large duck that has a green head and a reddish bill that is long and thin. They average 23 inches in length and weigh about 2½ pounds.
They are most often found in the northern Atlantic flyway but can flock to all four. They usually spend the winter on the South Carolina coast. This breed will summer in the brackish, fresh, or saltwater wetlands but will spend the winter in secluded bays.
The main food source for the Red-Breasted Merganser includes small fish. However, they will dine on insects, worms, and even amphibians on occasion.
12. Redhead (Aythya americana)
The Redhead Duck is aptly named because of its round, red head. It also has a blue bill that’s tipped in black. Growing to around 20 inches in length, this breed weighs around 2½ pounds on average.
Redheads are found from one coast to the other, with most of them being found in the coastal flyway. They venture into South Carolina for the winter season. Their preferred habitat is the wetlands in the summer months and low-lying coastal ecosystems during the long, hard winters.
They eat vegetables and tubers from aquatic plants during the breeding season but will also eat seeds. During the winter, they are known to dine on saltwater mollusks and plants.
13. Ring-Necked Duck (Aythya collaris)
The Ring-Necked Duck is very similar to the Scaup Ducks previously listed here. However, they have dark wings that are different from the Scaup Ducks. They grow to an average length of around 17 inches and weigh approximately 2½ pounds.
This breed can be found in all of the four flyways but is most commonly spotted in the Mississippi and Central flyways instead. They are happy to flock to South Carolina in the winter season, however. They like the wetlands during the summer season, and in the winter, they tend to flock to marshes, swamps, and other freshwater areas.
They prefer to feast on tubers, aquatic invertebrates, and plant seeds. Though during the breeding season, they prefer to increase their intake of animal food.
14. Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)
The Ruddy Duck has a thick neck and a compact body. It also features a white cheek, bright blue bill, and a tail that has been known to stand upright on occasion. This breed reaches an average length of 15½ inches and weighs in at around 1½ pounds.
Found in every flyway, they are most often found in the Atlantic and Pacific. However, they tend to make South Carolina their home during the winter of the year. They prefer large marsh systems when breeding and fresh, brackish coastal bays the rest of the year, though they will stay in the marshes as well.
This breed mainly eats aquatic insects and the like, though they will snack on vegetation and seeds every now and then.
15. Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata)
The Surf Scoter grows to an average length of 19½ inches and weighs about 2 pounds. This breed can be found in all flyways, but they commonly hang out on the coasts and winter in South Carolina as well.
Their habitats are shallow lakes during the breeding season and shallow marine waters to wait out the winter of the year.
Food for the Surf Scoter includes mostly mollusks during the winter season and aquatic invertebrates in the summer months. They’ll also dine on herring eggs when they can find them.
16. White Winged Scoter (Melanitta deglandi)
The White Winged Scoter is the last duck on our list of the types of ducks in South Carolina. This breed is one of the heaviest and largest breeds of ducks there is. They reach an average length of 21½ inches and weigh in at about 3½ pounds.
This breed is most often found on the coast but can be found in all four flyways. It is also found on the coast of South Carolina during the winter season. In the summer, they like to live in freshwater ponds, and in the winter, they prefer bays and open coastlines with shallow water available.
The White Winged Scoter eats fish and aquatic plants every now and then but prefers to dine on insects and marine mollusks.
This concludes our guide to the types of ducks you can find in South Carolina. Though there are a few types of ducks to choose from, the common diving ducks are what you’ll mostly find. Some of these ducks are only seen rarely here, but some visit our fair state every winter and hang around our coast until the summer sun peeks its head out once again to warm the earth.
So, now, if you’re walking along the coast on a fine winter’s day, you’ll be able to point out these ducks to your friends and family and know what you’re talking about at the same time.
Featured Image Credit: Mircea Costina, Shutterstock