Ducks - Key Information, Facts & Pictures Of Ducks (2024)

Ducks are birds. Ducks are also called ‘Waterfowl’ because they are normally found in places where there is water like ponds, streams and rivers.

Ducks are related to Geese and Swans in the Anatidae family. Ducks are sometimes confused with several types of unrelated water birds with similar forms, such as loons (an aquatic bird found in many parts of North America and northern Europe) or grebes (freshwater diving birds) and coots (medium-sized water birds which are members of the Rail Bird family).

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Duck Characteristics

Ducks are smaller than than their relatives (swans and geese). Ducks also have shorter necks and wings and a stout body.

A female duck is called a ‘hen’, they are identified by their very-dull, brown feathers. The females have dull-brown feathers so that they can hide from enemies and predators. They can also camouflage themselves in their nests and also protect their young.

A male duck is called a ‘drake’, you can identify the male duck by its brightly colored feathers. They use these colored feathers to attract the female ducks for mating. Here is a beautifully colored Drake with a purple plumage, shiny green head coloring, silvery white body and grey wings with blue markings.

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The males use their colorful plumage to attract females. However, they will lose or molt their colorful feathers when the females are busy hatching the eggs. The males will now look like the female in color and will be unable to fly temporarily. They will molt again in early Autumn and get back their colorful feathers and be able to fly again. The females also molt. They replace all their feathers and get new ones after their ducklings are hatched.

Ducks have webbed feet, which are designed for swimming. Their webbed feet act like paddles for the ducks. The reason ducks can swim in cold water is their amazing circulatory system. Their blood vessels are laid out very close to each other in their legs and feet in a network that allows the warm and cool blood to exchange heat.

This allows the warm blood going from the body into the feet to warm the cooler blood re-entering the body from the feet, and the blood going to the feet is cooled enough that the cold does not bother the duck. Thus the duck’s feet are able to tolerate the cold and not bother them. All birds have this circulatory system in their legs and feet.

A duck has water-proof feathers. There is a special gland called the ‘Preen Gland’ near the ducks tail. This tiny gland produces oil which the duck uses to coat its feathers.

The duck picks up the oil with its head and beak, and then smears it all over its body to make the outer feathers waterproof. Without this protective barrier, a ducks feathers would become water-logged and because they spend their whole lives around and in water, this water-proof barrier is extremely important. Beneath the water-proof coat are fluffy and soft feathers which keep the duck warm.

The ducks mouth is called a beak or bill. It is usually broad and flat and has rows of fine notches along the edge called ‘lamellae’. The lamellae helps the duck to grip its food so that it will not slip off.

However, ducks beak comes in different shapes and sizes. The shape of the beak and body determines how the duck will hunt for its food.

Duck Behaviour

Ducks keep clean by preening themselves. Ducks do this by putting their heads in funny positions and putting their beaks into their body. Ducks preen themselves very often. Preening also removes parasites, removes scales which cover newly sprouting feathers and also involves the removal of spreading oil over clean feathers.

Duck Habitats

Many species of duck are temporarily flightless while moulting. Ducks seek out protected habitats with a good food supply during this period. They usually moult before migrating.

Ducks are found in wetlands, marshes, ponds, rivers, lakes and oceans. This is because ducks love the water. Some species of ducks migrate or travel longs distances every year to breed. Ducks usually travel to warmer areas or where the water does not freeze so that they can rest and raise their young. The distance may be thousands of miles away. Ducks are found everywhere in the world except the Antartica which is too cold for them.

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Duck Life Span

Ducks can live from 2 – 20 years, depending on species and whether they are wild ducks or ducks in captivity. Its a fact that a wild duck can live 20 years or more. Domestic ducks typically live 10 – 15 years in captivity. The world record is a Mallard Drake that lived to a ripe old age of 27 years.

Ducks and their feeding habits

Shovelers – these ducks have broad beaks and sift their food for insects, nails and seed from the mud.

Diving ducks and Sea ducks forage deep underwater. To be able to submerge more easily, the diving ducks are heavier than dabbling ducks and therefore have more difficulty taking off to fly. These ducks have long and narrow beaks. Their narrow beaks are also covered will saw-like edges which help them to grab fish.

Dabbling ducks feed on the surface of water or on land, or as deep as they can reach by up-ending without completely submerging. Their beaks are broad and short. Dabbling ducks have tiny rows of plates along the inside of the beak called ‘lamellae’ like a whales baleen.

These let them filter water out of the side of their beaks and keep food inside. Dabbling ducks eat plants, seeds, grasses and other small insects and animals that they find on or under the water. Usually they stick their tails in the air and stretch their heads into the water to reach their food.

Dabblers usually have shiny colored patches on their wings. The domestic ducks are dabblers too. They are descendants of the Mallards. Dabbling ducks take off from the water in quick jumps. Ducks with longer necks dive with their head down into the shallow water and pick up their food.

Duck Reproduction

Ducks usually look for a mate or partner in winter. Male ducks will attract the female ducks with their colorful plumage or feathers. The female ducks will then lead the male ducks to their breeding ground in spring. The breeding ground will usually be the place where the female duck was hatched. The female duck builds her nest with grass or reeds or even in a hole in a tree.

The male duck will guard their territory by chasing away other couples. Once the female lays 5 – 12 eggs, she will sit on her eggs to keep them warm so that they can hatch into ducklings. The male ducks on the other hand, will be with the other male ducks.

The eggs will hatch within 28 days normally, except for the Muscovy duck which takes about 35 days to hatch.The mother duck will keep her brood of ducklings together to protect them from predators. Animals like the raccoon, turtles, hawks, large fish and snakes are a ducks main predators and they will eat the ducklings. Ducklings are able to fly within 5 – 8 weeks. Their feathers develop very fast.

When the young are ready to fly, all the ducks will gather in flocks on large lakes, marshes or the ocean to migrate to their wintering home. When the ducks fly, they usually do so in a ‘V-shaped’ or a long line.

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Domestic Duck Breeds vs Wild Duck Species

Domestic ducks are those that have been bred for specific traits such as size, color, temperament, and egg-laying ability. They are typically larger than their wild counterparts and have been bred to be more docile, making them suitable for livestock farming for meat or eggs, or as pets.

Domestic ducks originated from wild ducks, more specifically from 2 particular breeds – the Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and the Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata). Most, if not all domestic duck ‘breeds’ originate from these two ‘species’. Over time, humans selectively bred these ducks for specific traits, leading to the wide variety of domestic duck breeds we have today.

There are many different species of wild ducks, on the other hand. They live in natural environments around the globe, not selectively bred by humans. They are typically smaller, faster, and more agile than domestic ducks, and they retain their natural instincts for survival in the wild.

Interesting Duck Facts

  • A hen makes a loud QUACK sound while the drake has a raspy, muffled call.
  • Touching a duckling does not prevent the mother duck from taking care of it. It is however best to leave ducklings alone so as not to scare the mother duck away or accidentally injure them.
  • Ducks sleep with half their brains awake. Ducks are more likely to sleep with one eye open when they are located on the edge of sleeping groups. Ducks can detect predators in less than a second.
  • Duck eggshells have tiny holes (pores) that allow it to breathe. A hen’s eggs can have 7500 pores, most found at the blunt end of the egg. Respiratory gasses as well as water vapour travel through these pores allowing the egg to breathe.
  • Baby ducks are precocial meaning they are born with their eyes wide open, with a warm layer of down and are not fully dependant on their parents for food. Ducklings are ready to leave the nest within hours of hatching.
  • A ‘clutch’ is the total number of eggs laid by one bird during one nesting session. Clutch size affected by hereditary and environmental factors. When food is abundant, birds lay more eggs.
  • A brood is the total number of hatchlings, or ducklings in a clutch.
  • Ducks have very good vision and they see in color.

Learn how to keep ducks at home

What is a female duck called?

A female duck is called a ‘hen’, they are identified by their very-dull, brown feathers. The females have dull-brown feathers so that they can hide from enemies and predators. They can also camouflage themselves in their nests and also protect their young.

What are baby ducks called?

A baby duck is called a duckling. A group of ducklings is called a brood.

Where do ducks sleep?

Most species of Duck sleep floating on water. Some ducks such as mallards can roost on lands or water.

Popular Domestic Duck Breeds (Anas platyrhynchos domestica)

  • Pekin Duck
  • Rouen Duck
  • Crested Duck
  • Aylesbury Duck
  • Khaki Campbell Duck
  • Saxony Duck
  • Buff Orpington Duck
  • Welsh Harlequin Duck
  • Magpie Duck

Wild Duck Species List

Species NameScientific/ Binominal NameIUCN Status
African Black DuckAnas sparsaLeast Concern
African Pygmy GooseNettapus auritusLeast Concern
American Black DuckAnas rubripesLeast Concern (population decreasing)
American White Winged ScoterMelanitta deglandiLeast Concern
American Wigeon/BaldpateMareca americanaLeast Concern
Andean TealAnas andiumLeast Concern
Auckland TealAnas aucklandicaNear Threatened
Australasian ShovelerSpatula rhynchotisLeast Concern
Australian ShelduckTadorna tadornoidesLeast Concern
Australian Wood DuckChenonetta jubataLeast Concern
Baer’s PochardAythya baeriCritically Endangered
Baikal TealAnas formosaLeast Concern
Barrow’s GoldeneyeBucephala islandicaLeast Concern
Black ScoterMelanitta americanaNear Threatened
Black-Bellied Whistling-duckDendrocygna autumnalisLeast Concern
Black-Headed DuckHeteronetta atricapillaLeast Concern
Blue DuckHymenolaimus malacorhynchosEndangered
Blue-Billed DuckOxyura australisLeast Concern (local listings of vulnerable in NSW and threatened in Victoria)
Blue-Winged GooseCyanochen cyanopteraNear Threatened
Blue-Winged TealAnas discorsLeast Concern
Brazilian MerganserMergus octosetaceusCritically Endangered
Brazilian TealAmazonetta brasiliensisLeast Concern
Bronze Winged Duck/ Spectacled DuckSpeculanas specularisNear Threatened
Brown TealAnas chlorotisNear Threatened
BuffleheadBucephala albeolaLeast Concern
Campbell Islands TealAnas nesiotisVulnerable
CanvasbackAythya valisineriaLeast Concern
Cape ShovelerAnas smithiiLeast Concern
Cape TealAnas capensisLeast Concern
Chestnut TealAnas castaneaLeast Concern
Chiloe WigeonAnas sibilatrixLeast Concern
Cinnamon TealAnas cyanopteraLeast Concern
Comb DuckSarkidiornis melanotosLeast Concern
Common EiderSomateria mollissimaLeast Concern
Common GoldeneyeBucephala clangulaLeast Concern
Common MerganserMergus merganserLeast Concern
Common PochardAythya ferinaLeast Concern
Common ScoterMelanitta nigraLeast Concern
Common ShelduckTadorna tadornaLeast Concern
Common TealAnas creccaLeast Concern
Cotton Pygmy-GooseNettapus coromandelianusLeast Concern
Crested DuckLophonetta specularioidesLeast Concern
Crested ShelduckTadorna cristataCritically Endangered
Eastern Spot-Billed DuckAnas zonorhynchaLeast Concern
Eaton’s PintailAnas eatoniVulnerable
Egyptian GooseAlopochen aegyptiacaLeast Concern
Eurasian WigeonAnas penelopeLeast Concern
Falcated DuckMareca falcataNear Threatened
Falkland SteamerduckTachyeres brachypterusLeast Concern
Ferruginous DuckAythya nyrocaNear Threatened
Flightless SteamerduckTachyeres pteneresLeast Concern
Flying SteamerduckTachyeres patachonicusLeast Concern
Freckled DuckStictonetta naevosaLeast Concern
Fulvous Whistling-DuckDendrocygna bicolorLeast Concern
GadwallAnas streperaLeast Concern
Galapagos White Cheeked Pintail/ Bahama PintailAnas bahamensisLeast Concern
GarganeyAnas querquedulaLeast Concern
Common NameScientific NameLeast Concern
Greater ScaupAythya marilaLeast Concern
Green Pygmy-GooseNettapus pulchellusLeast Concern
Grey TealAnas gracilisLeast Concern
HardheadAythya australisLeast Concern
Harlequin DuckHistrionicus histrionicusLeast Concern
Hartlaub’s DuckPteronetta hartlaubiiLeast Concern
Hawaiian DuckAnas wyvillianaEndangered
Hooded MerganserLophodytes cucullatusLeast Concern
Hottentot TealAnas hottentotaLeast Concern
Kelp GooseChloephaga hybridaLeast Concern
King EiderSomateria spectabilisLeast Concern
Lake DuckOxyura vittataLeast Concern
Laysan DuckAnas laysanensisCritically Endangered
Lesser ScaupAythya affinisLeast Concern
Lesser Whistling-DuckDendrocygna javanicaLeast Concern
Long-Tailed Duck/ OldsquawClangula hyemalisVulnerable
Maccoa DuckOxyura maccoaEndangered
Madagascan PochardAythya innotataCritically Endangered
Madagascar Teal/ Bernier’s TealAnas bernieriEndangered
MallardAnas platyrhynchosLeast Concern
Mandarin DuckAix galericulataLeast Concern
Marbled TealMarmaronetta angustirostrisNear Threatened
Masked DuckNomonyx dominicusLeast Concern
Meller’s DuckAnas melleriEndangered
Mottled DuckAnas fulvigulaLeast Concern
Muscovy DuckCairina moschataLeast Concern
Musk DuckBiziura lobataLeast Concern
New Zealand ScaupAythya novaeseelandiaeLeast Concern
Northern PintailAnas acutaLeast Concern
Northern ShovelerAnas clypeataLeast Concern
Orinoco GooseNeochen jubataNear Threatened
Pacific Black DuckAnas superciliosaVulnerable
Paradise ShelduckTadorna variegataLeast Concern
Philippine DuckAnas luzonicaLeast Concern
Pink-Eared DuckMalacorhynchus membranaceusLeast Concern
Pink-Headed DuckRhodonessa caryophyllaceaCritically Endangered
Plumed Whistling-DuckDendrocygna eytoniLeast Concern
Puna TealAnas punaLeast Concern
Radjah ShelduckTadorna radjahLeast Concern
Red ShovelerAnas plataleaLeast Concern
Red-Billed DuckAnas erythrorhynchaLeast Concern
Red-Breasted MerganserMergus serratorLeast Concern
Red-Crested PochardNetta rufinaLeast Concern
RedheadAythya americanaLeast Concern
Ring-Necked DuckAythya collarisLeast Concern
Ringed TealCallonetta leucophrysLeast Concern
Rosy-Billed PochardNetta peposacaLeast Concern
Ruddy DuckOxyura jamaicensisLeast Concern
Ruddy ShelduckTadorna ferrugineaLeast Concern
Salvadori’s Teal/ Salvadori’s DuckSalvadorina waigiuensisLeast Concern (population decreasing)
Scaly-Sided Merganser/ Chinese MerganserMergus squamatusEndangered
Silver TealAnas versicolorLeast Concern
SmewMergellus albellusLeast Concern
South African ShelduckTadorna canaLeast Concern
Southern PochardNetta erythrophthalmaLeast Concern
Common NameScientific NameLeast Concern
Spectacled EiderSomateria fischeriLeast Concern
Spotted Whistling-DuckDendrocygna guttataLeast Concern
Steller’s EiderPolysticta stelleriVulnerable
Sunda TealAnas gibberifronsLeast Concern
Surf ScoterMelanitta perspicillataLeast Concern
Torrent DuckMerganetta armataLeast Concern
Tufted DuckAythya fuligulaLeast Concern
Velvet ScoterMelanitta fuscaVulnerable
Wandering Whistling-DuckDendrocygna arcuataLeast Concern
West Indian Whistling-DuckDendrocygna arboreaNear Threatened
Western Spot-Billed DuckAnas poecilorhynchaLeast Concern
White-Backed DuckThalassornis leuconotusLeast Concern
White-Faced Whistling-duckDendrocygna viduataLeast Concern
White-Headed DuckOxyura leucocephalaEndangered
White-Headed Flightless Steamerduck/ Chubut Steamer DuckTachyeres leucocephalusVulnerable
White-Winged Wood DuckCairina scutulataEndangered
White Winged ScoterMelanitta deglandiLeast Concern
Wood DuckAix sponsaLeast Concern
Yellow-Billed DuckAnas undulataLeast Concern
Yellow-Billed PintailAnas georgicaLeast Concern
Yellow-Billed TealAnas flavirostrisLeast Concern

More Fascinating Animals to Learn About

  • Water Beetle

  • Eurasian Water Shrew

  • British Water Vole

  • Galapagos White Cheeked Pintail Duck

  • Corncrake

  • Atlas Beetle

Ducks - Key Information, Facts & Pictures Of Ducks (2024)
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