Ducks are often the most familiar types of birds to many beginning birders and non-birders, but even experienced birders may not know just how unique these birds can be.
- All types of ducks are part of the bird family Anatidae, and there are species of ducks found worldwide on every continent except Antarctica.
- A baby duck is called a duckling, and an adult male is a drake. An adult female duck is called a hen or a duck, and a group of ducks can be called a raft, team or paddling.
- All ducks have highly waterproof feathers as a result of an intricate feather structure and a waxy coating that is spread on each feather while preening. A duck's feathers are so waterproof that even when the duck dives underwater, its downy underlayer of feathers will stay completely dry.
- Ducks are precocial, which means that ducklings are covered with down and able to walk and leave the nest just a few hours after hatching.
- A hen will lead her ducklings up to a half mile or more over land after hatching in order to find a suitable water source for swimming and feeding.
- Male ducks have an eclipse plumage similar to females that they wear after the breeding season for about a month as their new feathers grow. During that month, they are completely flightless and more vulnerable to predators.
- Most duck species are monogamous for a breeding season but they do not mate for life.
- When constructing her nest, a hen will line it with soft down feathers she plucks from her own breast. This gives the eggs the best possible cushioning and insulation.
- Ducks are omnivorous, opportunistic eaters and will eat grass, aquatic plants, insects, seeds, fruit, fish, crustaceans and other types of food.
- A duck's bill is specialized to help it forage in mud and to strain food from the water. A hard nail at the tip of the bill helps with foraging, and a comb-like structure on the sides of the bill strains small insects and crustaceans from water.
- Most male ducks are silent and very few ducks actually "quack." Instead, their calls may include squeaks, grunts, groans, chirps, whistles, brays and growls.
- It is a myth that a duck's quack won't echo. This has been conclusively disproved through different scientific acoustic tests, and was even featured as "busted" on an episode of the Discovery Channel show Mythbusters.
- Ducks have been domesticated as pets and farm animals for more than 500 years, and all domestic ducks are descended from either the mallard or the Muscovy duck.
- There are more than 40 breeds of domestic duck. The white Pekin duck (also called the Long Island duck) is the most common variety raised for eggs and meat.
- Because of their familiarity and comic nature, ducks are often featured as fictional characters. The two most famous fictional ducks are Disney's Donald Duck, who premiered in 1934, and Warner Bros.' Daffy Duck, who premiered in 1937.
Photo – Pekin Duck © marksjonathan