Oxyura – Stiff-tailed duck

With legs set far back, they are awkward on land and rarely leave the water

Oxyura species are widely distributed, with different species found in diverse geographic locations. They inhabit freshwater lakes, marshes, and ponds, often preferring areas with dense aquatic vegetation. The habitats they choose are typically rich in food resources and provide ample cover for nesting and protection from predators.

One of the most distinctive features of Oxyura ducks is their stiff, spiky tail feathers, which they often hold upright. These tails are not only a key identifying feature but also assist in diving and maneuvering underwater. The males of many species exhibit striking breeding plumage. For example, the male Ruddy Duck has bright chestnut body feathers, a blue bill, and a starkly contrasting white face during the breeding season. In contrast, females and non-breeding males are usually more subdued in color, often brownish, with mottled patterns that provide camouflage.

They are well-adapted to their aquatic environments. Their legs are set far back on their bodies, a characteristic that makes them excellent swimmers and divers but somewhat awkward on land. They spend most of their time on the water, diving frequently in search of food. Their dense, waterproof plumage keeps them insulated and dry, while their specialized tail feathers aid in underwater steering and balance. These ducks are also known for their ability to stay submerged for extended periods, an adaptation that helps them evade predators and catch prey.