Duck is the common name for various species in the waterfowl family Anatidae, which also includes swans and geese.
In the Anatidae family, ducks are divided into several subfamilies; since ducks are not considered to be swans and geese, they do not constitute a monophyletic group but a taxon-like type.
Ducks are mainly aquatic birds, mostly smaller than swans and geese, and can be found in fresh and marine waters.
|Scientific Name||Anas Platyrhynchos|
Ducks have an elongated and broad overall body plan, and they also have relatively long-necked, but not as long as geese and swans.
By being more oval, the body shape of diving ducks differs somewhat from this. The bill is typically broad and includes serrated pectens, which in the filter-feeding species are particularly well defined.
The bill is long and heavily dented in the case of some fishing species. The scaled legs, more so in aquatic animals, are sturdy and well-formed and usually set far back on the body.
The wings are powerful and are generally short and pointed. Fast continuous strokes are needed for the flight of ducks, requiring strong wing muscles in turn. However, three species of steamer duck are nearly flightless.
Many duck species are temporarily flightless during moulding; during this time, they search for protected habitat with good food supplies. Usually, this mould precedes migration. The drakes of northern species also have lavish plumage, but this is moulded in summer to give the “eclipse” plumage a more female-like look.
Southern resident species usually exhibit less sexual dimorphism, although there are exceptions, like New Zealand’s paradise shelduck, which is both distinctly sexually dimorphic and in which the colouration of the female is lighter than that of the male.
Typically, the hues of juvenile birds match that of the female. Female ducks have evolved to have a corkscrew-shaped vagina to avoid rape.
Ducks are omnivorous animals that feed on aquatic plants, small fish, insects and grubs, which implies that ducks can easily adjust to various conditions.
It is because of the duck’s ability to consume such a diverse quantity of food both in water and on dry land that makes ducks one of the most common birds globally, since they are present on every continent, with the obvious exception of Antarctica.
A duck’s mouth contains rows of tiny plates that support their teeth, which enable them to filter water out of their beaks without wasting food. The sophisticated water filtering method of the duck is close to the way a blue whale in the ocean feeds.
Distribution and habitat
There is a cosmopolitan distribution for ducks. On sub-Antarctic islands, including South Georgia and the Auckland Islands, a variety of species continue to live.
Many ducks have managed to establish themselves on oceanic islands that include Hawaii, New Zealand and Kerguelen. However, many of these species and populations are endangered or have become extinct.
Some duck species are migratory, especially those that reside in the temperate and Arctic Northern Hemisphere. Nevertheless, those in the tropics are not typically migratory.
Some ducks are nomadic, especially in Australia, where rainfall is patchy and intermittent, searching for temporary lakes and pools that appear after localized heavy rain.
Ducks typically have one partner at a time, although the partnership usually lasts for one year. The larger populations and more sedentary species tend to have pair-bonds that last for years.
Most duck species reproduce once a year, choosing to do so in favourable conditions like the spring/summer or wet seasons. Ducks build a nest before breeding and, after hatching, lead their ducklings to water.
Mother ducks are caring and protective of their young. Still, they may abandon some of their ducklings if they are physically stuck in a place they cannot get out of (such as nesting in an enclosed courtyard) or are not prospering because of genetic defects or sickness caused by starvation, hypothermia, or disease.
Ducklings can also be orphaned as a result of inconsistent late hatching where some eggs hatch after the mother has left the nest and led her ducklings to the water.
Most domestic ducks abandon their eggs and ducklings, and their eggs can be hatched under a broody hen or by artificial means.
Not all ducks really quack, contrary to common opinion! It is commonly recognized that only the females of most duck species actually produce a quacking sound. In fact, all ducks have a broad spectrum of calls that they use to interact with each other, including whistles and grunts.
Ducks are vulnerable species, so ducks around the world have several predators. Duck predators vary from smaller animals like foxes, wolves and even big fish, to larger animals like crocodiles and humans.
Relationship with humans
Ducks are farmed for their meat and eggs all over the world. Ducks are often reared on mass (known as down) for their feathers, which is most widely used in bedding, such as duvets and pillows.
In Asia, especially in China, which has the biggest duck economy in the country, domestic duck populations are believed to be at their peak.
Different species of duck are eaten worldwide, with duck meat being especially beneficial to humans because of its rich flavour. Ducks are also hunted frequently by hunters because they are often seen as an easy target. The quiet nature of the duck suggests that responding to surrounding noise sometimes takes awhile.
Ducks are also intensively farmed and are subject to awful conditions, as with other commercial farm animals, including chickens. Buyers of duck meat and eggs should only acquire organic or free-range items and avoid purchasing duck-down (feathers) bedding.
Ducks have adjusted well to aquatic life, and their webbed feet together with their unique water filtering system in their mouths enables them to move smoothly on the surface of the water.
The duck’s webbed feet often make it a lot easier for the duck to walk on the slippery river banks.
Duck’s foot fact
- Ducks have webbed feet that enable them to paddle and swim more effortlessly in the water.
- When ducks are swimming, they force their feet back in a kicking motion, so that the webbing captures the water and pushes it behind the duck.
- The webbing on the foot of the duck closes up on the return stroke, allowing the duck to have less water resistance and move quicker.
- Ducks have a complex capillary system in their feet that helps control the flow of blood and prevents their feet from getting cold.
- The duck’s webbed feet suggest that the duck can not walk on land easily and run about in a waddling movement instead.
Duck’s teeth fact
- Like most other species of birds, ducks do not have teeth, but rather use their beaks to capture food.
- Ducks posses rows of thin bristles in their mouth, which allow them to filter nutritional particles out of the water.
- Ducks use their strong beaks to capture their food and make use of their gizzard to digest their food, after swallowing them whole.
- A duck’s beak consists of an upper and lower jaw that is solid since it is made from bone.
- The duck makes use of its beak to feed and to groom itself.