Anatidae – Ducks/geese

Geese are larger than ducks, and have elegant long necks

A diverse group of elegant birds that includes ducks, geese, and swans, and is distinguished by a set of shared physical characteristics and behaviors that have allowed them to thrive in aquatic environments across the globe.

Members of this family have evolved bodies that are well-adapted to life on the water. They typically have wide, robust bodies that provide buoyancy and stability, short legs positioned towards the rear of their bodies for efficient swimming, and webbing between their toes to aid in propulsion. Their necks range from short and thick to long and slender, allowing them to forage in a variety of ways, from dabbling on the water’s surface to reaching deep underwater or grazing on land.

The beaks of Anatidae are uniquely adapted to their diets. Many ducks have broad, flattened beaks edged with horny lamellae, which act like a sieve to filter small invertebrates and plants from the water. The hard nail at the tip of the beak allows them to forage in mud and vegetation. Geese and swans have beaks that are more suited to grazing, and they tend to have a more herbivorous diet, feeding on grasses, seeds, and aquatic plants.

Anatidae birds are found almost everywhere in the world, from the Arctic tundras to tropical wetlands. Their global distribution is facilitated by many species migrating, traveling vast distances between breeding and wintering grounds to exploit different ecosystems at different times of the year.

These birds are not just important as part of the food web, where they serve as prey to a variety of predators; they also play crucial roles in their ecosystems. They help to control aquatic vegetation and disperse plant seeds, and their feeding habits can influence the invertebrate populations in their habitats.