The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary







For other uses of the word duck, see Duck (disambiguation)

Merginae Duck is the common name for a number of types of bird in the family Anatidae. The ducks are divided between several different subfamilies of the Anatidae; see that article for a full listing. Ducks are mostly aquatic birds, mostly smaller than their relatives the swans and geese, and may be found in both fresh and salt water.

Ducks exploit a variety of food sources such as grasses, grains and water plants, fish, insects, and the like. The sound made by ducks is called a "quack"; a common (and false) urban legend is that quacks do not produce an echo.

The males (drakes) of northern species often have showy plumage, but this is moulted in summer to give a more female-like appearance, the "eclipse" plumage. In many species, adult males are temporarily flightless; these birds seek out protected habitat with good food supplies during this period. This moult typically precedes migration.

Some species of duck, mainly those breeding in the temperate and arctic northern hemisphere, are migratory, but others are not. Some, particularly in Australia where rainfall is patchy and erratic, are nomadic, seeking out the temporary lakes and pools that form after localised heavy rain.

In many areas, wild ducks of various species are hunted for food or sport, by shooting, or formerly by decoys. From this came the expression "sitting duck" to mean "an easy target".

Eiderdown is the down feathers of the eider duck. It is collected from their nests in breeding areas where the ducks use it to line their nests.

Ducks have many domestic uses, being farmed for their meat, eggs, feathers and down feathers. Most domestic ducks were bred from the wild Mallard Anas platyrhyncha, but many breeds have become much larger than wild ducks, with a "hull length" (from base of neck to base of tail) of 12 inches or more and routinely able to swallow an adult British Common Frog Rana temporaria whole.

Ducks are sometimes confused with several types of unrelated birds with similar forms, such as loons or divers, grebes, gallinules, and coots.



The word duck meaning the bird, came from the verb "to duck" meaning to bend down as if to get under something, because of the way it feeds; compare the Dutch word duiken = "to dive". This happened because the older Old English word for "duck" came to be pronounced the same as the word for "end": other Germanic languages still have words similar to end, compare Dutch eend = "duck", eind = "end".

See also

Fictional ducks

External links

Last updated: 10-20-2005 18:33:31
Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46