black birds that look like ducks

Birds come in a vast array of shapes, sizes, and colors, making them one of nature’s most diverse creatures. Ducks, with their charming waddles and distinctive quacks, are well-loved and easily recognizable.

However, there are other black birds in the avian world that might make you do a double-take due to their striking resemblance to ducks.

Let’s have a look into the intriguing world of black birds that look like ducks, both in appearance and behavior.

The Allure of Ducks

Before we explore these avian doppelgängers, let’s take a moment to appreciate the uniqueness of ducks. Ducks are known for their distinctive webbed feet, waterproof plumage, and beaks adapted for filtering food from water. Their aquatic lifestyle, whether in serene ponds, fast-flowing rivers, or open ocean, sets them apart as fascinating waterfowl.

Characteristics of Ducks:

  • They have webbed feet, which act like paddles, making them excellent swimmers.
  • Their feathers have a waterproof coating, thanks to a special oil produced by a gland near their tails.
  • They possess a broad, flat bill designed for filtering food from water.
  • They are known for their quacking sound, although the pitch and loudness can vary.
  • They often feed by ‘dabbling,’ where they tip forward in the water to graze on underwater plants.
  • They frequently migrate seasonally, traveling to warmer regions during colder months.

1-Coots (Fulica spp.)

Coots, often referred to as “marsh hens” or “mud hens,” are black waterbirds known for their striking similarity to ducks when observed from a distance. They share a similar size and are often found in wetland habitats. They have black plumage, red eyes, and lobed toes adapted for swimming.

coots that look like ducks black birds

Characteristics of Coots

  • They have lobed toes, not webbed feet, which help them swim and walk on soft ground.
  • Their feathers are generally dark, often black or slate-grey, making them distinct from ducks.
  • They possess a white frontal shield above the bill, a unique feature among waterfowl.
  • They are known for their loud and distinctive calls, different from the quacking of ducks.
  • They build floating nests anchored to underwater plants in marshes and shallow lakes.
  • They are aggressive and territorial during the breeding season, often seen chasing away intruders.

2-Moorhens (Gallinula spp.)

Moorhens, also known as “common gallinules,” are another black waterbird that can be mistaken for small ducks. They have black plumage, a distinctive red frontal shield on their foreheads, and long legs adapted for wading in shallow waters.

morhens black birds that look like ducks

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Characteristics of Moorhens

  • Their plumage is mostly dark, often black or brown, with a distinctive red frontal shield above the bill.
  • They are smaller and more streamlined than coots, with a more chicken-like appearance.
  • They emit a variety of sounds, from loud, repetitive calls to softer clucking noises.
  • They are commonly found in wetlands, ponds, and marshes, where they forage for plant material and small aquatic creatures.
  • Moorhens are known for being less aggressive than coots, often seen foraging in groups.

3-Black Scoters (Melanitta americana)

Black scoters are sea ducks with predominantly black plumage. While they may not resemble ducks in terms of body shape, their dark coloration and preference for coastal waters often lead to visual confusion.

black scoters

Characteristics of Black Scoters

  • They possess a distinctive all-black plumage in males, with a bright orange knob at the base of the bill, making them easily recognizable.
  • Females and juveniles are mostly brown with paler cheeks, contrasting with the darker males.
  • They have a large, bulky body and a relatively small head, typical of sea ducks.
  • Their vocalizations are unique, with males producing a long, melodious whistle and females a harsher croak.
  • Black Scoters are diving ducks, adept at foraging underwater for mollusks and crustaceans.
  • They are typically found in coastal marine environments, often in large flocks during migration and winter.

4-American Coot (Fulica americana)

The American coot is a common sight in North American wetlands and shares the characteristic black plumage with ducks. Their behavior of dabbling on the water’s surface while foraging can further contribute to the confusion.

american coot birds that look like ducks

Characteristics of American Coot

  • They have distinctive lobed toes rather than fully webbed feet, aiding in both swimming and walking on soft, uneven surfaces.
  • Their plumage is primarily slate-gray, with a stark contrast provided by the white bill and frontal shield.
  • American Coots possess a short, white tail and a rounded body, giving them a plump appearance.
  • They are known for their loud, varied calls including cackles, clucks, and grunts.
  • They are adept at both swimming and diving, often seen foraging for plant material in water and on land.
  • During breeding season, they become territorial and can be seen aggressively defending their space.

Behavior and Characteristics

These black birds often exhibit behaviors that resemble those of ducks. They are frequently found near water bodies, where they engage in activities like swimming, diving, and dabbling. Additionally, their diet may include aquatic plants, small invertebrates, and even small fish, mirroring the feeding habits of ducks.

However, it’s important to note that while these birds may share some visual and behavioural similarities with ducks, they each have their unique characteristics and evolutionary adaptations.

Coots and moorhens, for instance, are part of the rail family, while black scoters are sea ducks. Understanding their distinct behaviors, habitats, and dietary preferences is crucial for appreciating their place in the avian world.

Comparison Table: Ducks vs. Black Birds That Look Like Ducks

Feature Ducks Coots Moorhens American Coot Black Scoters
Appearance Varied sizes/colors. Broad, flat bill, webbed feet. Slate-gray body, white bill, lobed toes. Dark bodies, red frontal shield, yellow tip on the bill, white undertail, non-webbed feet with long toes. Similar to coots, but with a darker bill and a more prominent frontal shield. Black plumage, distinctive orange-yellow knob at the base of the bill (males), darker bill (females).
Size Medium to large, depending on species. Medium-sized, with a body length of about 13-17 inches. Slightly smaller than coots, around 12-15 inches in length. Similar in size to coots, 13-17 inches. Larger, about 19-21 inches in length.
Habitat Freshwater lakes, rivers, marshes, and coastal waters. Freshwater lakes, ponds, slow-moving rivers, and marshes. Marshes, reed beds, and shores of lakes and ponds. Similar habitats to coots, including lakes, ponds, and marshes across North America. Coastal waters, large lakes, and occasionally on saltwater bays during winter.
Diet Omnivorous: aquatic plants, small fish, insects, and grains. Omnivorous: algae, water plants, seeds, insects, and small fish. Omnivorous: insects, aquatic vegetation, small fish, and seeds. Similar to coots, including algae, aquatic plants, and small invertebrates. Primarily mollusks, also small fish, crustaceans, and insects.
Behavior Social, often seen in flocks. Migrate seasonally. Social, can be aggressive towards other waterfowl. Strong swimmers, poor flyers. Shy and secretive, less social than coots. Good swimmers, short flights. Social and aggressive like coots. Known for their unique “purring” calls. More solitary or in small flocks, strong and direct flight.
Breeding Monogamous. Nest near water. Eggs: 5-12. Monogamous. Build floating nests. Eggs: 6-11. Monogamous. Nests in dense vegetation. Eggs: 5-13. Similar breeding habits to coots. Monogamous. Nests on the ground near water. Eggs: 5-9.
Migration Some species migrate long distances. Migrate short distances, if at all. Partially migratory, depending on region. Similar migration patterns to coots. Migrate from breeding grounds in northern regions to warmer coastal waters in winter.
Conservation Status Varies by species, from Least Concern to Threatened. Generally Least Concern, but habitat loss affects some populations. Least Concern, but habitat changes can pose risks. Least Concern, widespread and abundant. Least Concern, but some populations are decreasing due to habitat loss and oil spills.

Above table summarizes the key differences and similarities between ducks and the specified birds that bear a resemblance to ducks. Each of these birds has unique characteristics, but they all share a connection to aquatic environments, which influences their appearance, diet, and behavior.


Finally, you know all about black birds that look like ducks.The world of birds is a testament to the diverse beauty of nature. While ducks hold a special place in our hearts, it’s fascinating to discover other black birds that resemble them in certain aspects. These avian look-alikes serve as a reminder of the intricate web of life, where each species plays a unique role in the ecosystem. Whether you’re a seasoned birder or simply an admirer of nature’s wonders, exploring the subtle resemblances among birds can be a delightful journey of discovery and appreciation.


What is the bird that looks like a duck but is black?

 A bird that resembles a duck but is black could be a coot, which is often mistaken for a duck due to its size and habitat but is actually a different species.

What bird looks like a duck?

 Many waterfowl species, like geese and swans, resemble ducks in size and shape.

What is a black duck that is not a duck? 

A black bird commonly mistaken for a duck is the coot, which has similar water habits but distinct features like a white beak.

What is the black duck called? 

The American black duck (Anas rubripes) is a large dabbling duck known for its mostly dark plumage.

Can wild ducks fly? 

Yes, most wild ducks are capable of flight and often migrate long distances.

What is a black runner duck? 

The black runner duck is a breed of domestic duck known for its upright posture and fast walking, available in several colors including black.

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