Bucket-List Birds, Part IV: Sea Ducks

By author of The Duck Blog

Marine waterfowl spark the imagination

Almost any sea duck might be a trophy for an inland hunter. And if you throw in the brilliant, unique plumages of full-color drakes, you might be talking about a substantial loan to cover your taxidermy bill.

But duck hunters can dream, right? Let’s look at one inland hunter’s picks for bucket-list sea ducks.

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The Scoter Slam

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1 | The Scoter Slam

Cry foul if you want, but I can’t choose between the three North American scoters: black, surf (pictured) and white-winged. Drakes from each variety are striking, sporting jet-black plumage and seemingly painted bills. Why not take one of each and make a cool combination mount?

Despite hunting the Mississippi Flyway most of my life, I’ve shot quite a few scoters while open-water hunting for diving ducks. White-wings top the list, with blacks second and surfs a distant third. However, all were drab, immature birds, not wildlife art material. I’ll change that someday.

Photo credit: © Steve Byland/Shutterstock

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Long-Tailed Duck

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2 | Long-Tailed Duck

Previously called oldsquaws, these dainty, colorful birds are among the prettiest ducks in North America. Their brilliant white plumage — offset by black and brown markings and long, flowing tail feathers — make them a taxidermy natural.

Many inland hunters have crossed the longtail off their lists, as large concentrations of these ducks migrate through and winter on the Great Lakes. I’ve taken several great specimens on Lake Michigan and have buddies who annually shoot museum-grade longtails on lakes Erie and Ontario and the Niagara River.

Photo credit: © Paul Reeves Photography/Shutterstock

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Common Eider

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3 | Common Eider

Talk about unique. These huge, colorful ducks scream coastal adventure. One look at an eider picture and I immediately daydream about rocky Maine shorelines and fresh lobster. Plus, I can’t get over the thought of shooting at ducks with an average weight of almost 5 pounds. Unless you grew up on the Eastern seaboard, this bird will probably make your list.

Photo credit: © Rugco/Shutterstock

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King Eider

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4 | King Eider

No surprise here. With brilliant plumage and an orange frontal shield atop its bill, the king might outshine its common cousin a bit. Most hunters travel to Alaska to scratch their king eider itch, so filling this bucket-list item typically requires the adventure of a lifetime. While you’re in Alaska, you might as well fill Bucket List Item No. 1, too.

Photo credit: © Spatuletail/Shutterstock

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Harlequin Duck

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5 | Harlequin Duck

Not very original, but who can deny that this incredibly colorful, relatively rare duck sits atop most waterfowling must-have lists. Shoot, you don’t even have to like diver hunting to want a harlequin. With their blue plumage, reddish-brown sides and white patches and markings, they’re a visual kaleidoscope.

As mentioned, Alaska offers the best harlequin duck opportunities. You can also take one per year in Washington. But hey, if I’m heading that far west, I might as well turn the truck north and make my taxidermist very wealthy with a bonus eider or three.

Photo credit: © Erni/Shutterstock

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6 | Conclusion

Well, that’s the final bucket-list countdown. Do you agree with my picks, or do you think I’m full of duck feathers? Get on social media to let us know.

And more important, enjoy scratching a bird or two off your personal bucket list this season.

Photo credit: © Elliotte Rusty Harold/Shutterstock

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