What are diving ducks?
Ducks can be split into two broad groups: dabblers and divers. Diving duck is a loose term that covers a wide range of ducks who feed mainly by diving under the water, whether it's to chase fish, scoop up insects or graze on tasty aquatic plants. Some diving ducks prefer freshwater and are often found on rivers, lakes and reservoirs, others prefer the sea and are usually seen from the coast.
Which diving ducks am I likely to see?
Diving ducks can be seen year-round, but winter brings a boost in numbers as birds arrive from Northern Europe and Russia. Some species, like scaup and smew, are mostly winter visitors and are rarely seen during the summer.
This quick identification guide covers the more widespread species and some of the rarer diving ducks you may encounter around the UK. Most descriptions refer to birds in breeding plumage, which is the plumage usually seen from autumn through spring. After breeding, they start moulting and males enter an often confusing "eclipse" plumage, where they usually resemble females.
Tufted duck (male)
Our most common diving duck; found on almost any freshwater body and often seen in parks and on urban waterways. Males are easily recognised by their black and white plumage and the long tuft of feathers on their head.
Tufted duck (female)
Females are much browner than males. The tuft on their head is much smaller, but still obvious. They sometimes have white feathers around the base of the bill, similar to scaup, but female tufted duck bills have a broad black tip with a ‘hint of’ pale band behind it.