Anseriformes – Waterfowl

Geese are larger than ducks, and have elegant long necks

An order of birds that includes ducks, geese, swans, and the more unique screamers. This group is distinguished by their aquatic habits, often found in freshwater and saltwater environments worldwide. They are well-adapted to life on the water, with webbed feet for swimming and waterproof feathers that enable them to float and dive effectively.

In the UK, Anseriformes are commonly referred to as wildfowl, while in the USA, they are known as waterfowl. This reflects their association with aquatic habitats and their importance in hunting and birdwatching communities. On the other hand, Screamers are a lesser-known family within the order known scientifically as Anhimidae. These birds are indeed quite distinct from their Anseriformes relatives, with elongated legs suitable for walking on marshy ground and chicken-like beaks adapted for their herbivorous diet. Their loud, piercing calls are the reason behind their common name, ‘Screamers.’

These birds are not only known for their vocalizations but also for their remarkable migratory patterns. Many species of ducks, geese, and swans undertake long migratory journeys, traveling thousands of kilometers across continents. These migrations are not just awe-inspiring natural phenomena but also have practical implications for humans. The arrival and departure of these birds often signal seasonal changes, which can be crucial for agricultural planning and understanding ecological health.

Anseriformes have long relationships with humans, dating back to prehistoric times. They have been hunted for their meat, which is a valuable food source, and their feathers, which have been used for insulation and decoration. Down feathers, in particular, are highly prized for their warmth and lightness, making them ideal for stuffing bedding and garments.

The breeding habits of Anseriformes are diverse. While some species form lifelong pair bonds, others may form seasonal relationships. They are known for their elaborate courtship displays, including synchronized swimming, head bobbing, and mutual preening.