Bird Families

Brook Duck / Merganetta armata

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The duck family is the most numerous family of waterfowl. More than 150 bird species are distinguished, which are subdivided into 40 genera. The domestication of birds of the duck family (goose, duck) by humans took place in ancient times.

Birds still retain an important role in agriculture and are often kept in backyards. The main purpose of the content is to obtain meat, eggs, fluff. Commercial hunting is also conducted for ducks, which negatively affects the number of birds.

The predecessors of the duck are birds that lived on earth in ancient times. This fact is confirmed by archaeological research. For example, in the state of Utah, the remains of a bird, which is the ancestor of the modern common duck, were discovered, dating back about 50 million years.

The duck family includes more than 150 species of birds that differ significantly from each other both in size and in color of plumage. The sizes of representatives of the family ranges from: from 250 gr. (African pygmy goose) up to 20 kg. (mute swan). Representatives of the duck family have dense, thick, coated with waterproof grease, plumage.

The neck is long and flexible. The beak is flattened, wide. The body is streamlined, with a significant layer of subcutaneous fat. Legs are short, widely spaced.
The fingers are connected by a membrane. All members of the family are able to move (walk and run) on land, swim well, many dive. They fly well, can reach speeds of up to 80 km. in hour. Duck family members for the most part lead a monogamous lifestyle. Many species have developed complex social bonds. Nests are built in close proximity to water, sometimes on islets. The female covers the nest with a layer of down, which she plucks out of her own abdomen. Chicks are born sighted and grow very quickly.

A few days after hatching, they are already able to independently obtain food for themselves. Duck feeds most often in the dark. All birds have a shy nature and are always extremely careful.

Some species are credited with well-developed sense organs: hearing, sight, smell. The duck's beak itself has a special sensitivity.
Many members of the duck family (for example, geese) have well-developed mental abilities. They are able to pass on the accumulated life experience from generation to generation.

The sizes of representatives of the duck family ranges from: from 250 gr. (African pygmy goose) up to 15 kg. (mute swan). Representatives of the duck family have dense, thick, coated with waterproof grease, plumage. The body is rounded, streamlined, with a significant layer of subcutaneous fat. Legs are short, widely spaced.

The fingers are connected by a membrane. The head is small. The neck is long, flexible, with up to 25 vertebrae. The beak is flattened, wide. There is a growth at the top of the beak - this is a characteristic feature of all members of the family. By the beak, you can make assumptions about the way of feeding and the approximate diet of the bird - aquatic plants and insects, grass and other vegetation, small fish.

The color of the plumage of representatives of the duck family is diverse. Sexual dimorphism is developed in some species and absent in others. For example, swans do not differ from each other depending on gender, while by the color of the plumage of a duck, one can say for sure whether it is a male or a female.

Feather care is important for the duck. The feathers are lubricated by the coccygeal gland. Abundant grease allows birds to literally "stay dry" even after diving, and quickly take off from the surface of the water.
If the duck is deprived of the opportunity to take water procedures daily, then the bird may even lose the ability to swim and fly. Birds need to promptly clean the feathers and skin under them. Getting out of the water to the shore, duck always shake themselves thoroughly - this is what allows them to restore the structure of feathers, which is disturbed during swimming. After that, birds usually begin to lubricate feathers with fat, taking it out of the coccygeal gland with their beak and evenly distributing it over the body. The structure of duck feathers is such that the bristles of the feathers are serrated, which cling to each other and thereby provide the elasticity of the feathers.


There are about 145-150 species in the duck family.

More than 60 species are found on the territory of Russia, of which 18 species are listed in the Red Book.

The duck family includes two subfamilies (Goose and Duck), which in turn are divided into tribes.

Subfamily Goose (Anserinae) - 4 tribes:

Tribe Freckled ducks (Stictonettinae). Monotypic view. Breeds in Australia. It looks like a large river duck. It feeds on vegetation from the surface of the water.

Tribe Woody (Whistling) ducks - (Dendrocygninae). 9 types. Ducks are small in size with blunt wings and high legs. They swim well and know how to dive. Food is obtained from water by filtering it with a beak and retaining phytoplankton and aquatic plants in it. Arial habitat - tropical landscapes.

Tribe Chicken Geese (Cereopsini). Monotypic view. Endemic to southern Australia. It swims poorly and keeps mostly on land.

Tribe Geese, swans, geese (Anserini). 22-24 species. The largest representatives. They swim well, but they don't know how to dive. Distributed in temperate and northern latitudes. They feed on aquatic plants, taking them from a considerable depth thanks to their long neck or plant food on the shore.

Subfamily Duck, or true ducks (Anatinae) - 8 tribes:

Tribe Brilliant ducks (Cairini). 13 types. This tribe unites birds that are very different in size and appearance. Many species have very beautiful bright color of plumage, sexual dimorphism is often developed. They mainly live in the tropics. Food is obtained mainly from water.

Tribe Earth ducks, or Half-geese (Tadornini (Tadorninae). 15 types. They do not know how to dive, they move well on the ground. Land birds that feed on plants on land or in shallow water. Habitat - southern hemisphere, tropics.

Tribe Sea ducks (Mergini). 20 types. Representatives vary in size. They swim and dive well, take off from the water after a run. Sexual dimorphism is developed among birds. They are of secondary commercial importance, since the meat gives off a sea smell (a consequence of nutrition). They settle in the northern hemisphere.

Tribe Diving ducks (Aythyini). 15 types. The birds are medium in size, stocky. With a big head. Take the "float" pose when getting food from the water. Valuable game poultry, but the meat does not have excellent taste. It cannot take off sharply from the water - a takeoff run is needed. Found in the northern hemisphere.

Tribe River, or Noble ducks (Anatini). 40 types. They feed on zooplankton, algae, small invertebrates in shallows and shallow waters. The main game with tasty meat. They settle in fresh water bodies. Pairs form only for the breeding season. Distributed almost everywhere.

Tribe Stream ducks (Merganettini). Monotypic species inhabiting the Andes. Among the representatives, sexual demorphism is expressed, the color is contrasting. Swims and dives well.

Tribe Savka (Oxiurini). 8 types. They are distinguished by a large head and a short neck. Outwardly, they are very similar to diving ducks. Representatives of the tribe often lay their eggs in other people's nests. Habitat - tropics and temperate latitudes of the southern hemisphere.

Tribe Steamer Ducks (Tachyerini). 4 types. Representatives of the species are quite large - up to 6 kg. The physique is dense, the neck is not long. Not painted brightly. Distributed in South America. Food is found at the bottom of reservoirs. Only one species can fly. Swim and dive well.

For industrial, domestic breeding and maintenance it is widely used domestic duck... It comes from the common wild duck, or mallard. There are four breeds of domestic ducks: common domestic duck, hook-billed duck, talkative duck and penguin duck.

Bird watchers believe. That ducks began to spread around the world from one of the continents, located in the southern hemisphere of the earth.

Members of the duck family are now widespread throughout the globe. These birds are absent only in Antarctica and some islands in the world's oceans. Often the same species of duck can be found in completely different habitats, for example, in temperate latitudes and in tropical climates.

Scientists suggest that this difference in habitat is because during migration, birds go astray and settle in new territories. As a rule, in such areas not typical for birds, they settle in small colonies. Their number is insignificant. In addition, such birds change over time in size and color of plumage, they practically cease to lead a migratory lifestyle.

Almost all members of the family are waterfowl. Therefore, their habitat falls on water areas or coastal zones. Some birds settle in the open sea.

In almost every body of water you can find one or another representative of the duck family. Many birds willingly settle in human habitats, even in parks and city gardens.

Depending on the species, birds tend to be monogamous or polygamous. For example, ducks often choose a mate for themselves only for the breeding season, for one season, and, immediately after laying the eggs, the pair breaks up.

On the contrary, they remain faithful to their partner throughout their lives. Only the death of one of the swans can make the bird look for a new partner. Mating games take place on the water, with the male arching his neck, swimming, drawing various figures on the water, flapping his wings, and making characteristic sounds. Often, several males can arrange a fight over a female. Sometimes pairs are formed long before the laying of eggs, but at the same time the birds are already relentlessly following each other. Representatives of ducks mate on the water (with the exception of the Hawaiian goose and chicken goose). The male, as a rule, acts rather rudely - he drowns the female, pinches her. During the breeding season, the flock breaks up into pairs and keeps apart. Only flocks of common eiders do not disintegrate, but continue to exist as before. The territory chosen by the pair is very carefully guarded by the male. In case of approaching a competitor's site, the male behaves very aggressively.

The nest is usually located on land in the coastal area. The nest is shaped like a bowl. The bottom is lined with plants and fluff, which the female plucks out of the abdomen (by the color of this fluff, one can determine which species of birds the nest belongs to). There are species (for example, Peganka (Tadorna)) that choose minks of small mammals as their nests. The brook duck (Merganetta armata) can nest almost anywhere, up to the roof of a building or another bird's nest in a tree. The black-headed duck (Heteronetta atricapilla) differs in that it does not differ in a developed maternal instinct: after laying eggs, it lays them in the nests of other birds and does not worry about the future fate of the chicks.

The clutch can contain from 3 to 12 eggs, depending on the type of bird. The number of eggs in a clutch is determined by that. How strong bonds bind the birds, how much both parents take a significant part in the fate of the chicks. The stronger the parental instinct is, the fewer the number of eggs in the clutch. Eggs are usually light in color, uniformly colored. The female is mainly engaged in incubation, but in pairs of birds that do not part with each other for a long time, the male can also take part in incubating the offspring. The incubation period lasts from 20 to 40 days. Chicks are born already sighted, rather strong, pubescent. They grow very quickly, they are able to follow their parents and swim almost from the first days of life. At the age of about one and a half to two months, the chicks are already able to fly.

By the structure of the bird's beak, one can judge its diet. Many birds of the duck family filter the water well with their beak (they have a developed filtering apparatus), thanks to the presence of special plates.

Thus, their main food is small aquatic plants and insects, phytoplankton. Some species, with a long neck or good diving, feed on plants and various invertebrates, molluscs, obtained from the bottom of the reservoir.

Geese and brants mainly consume grass in the coastal zone, dig up small roots from the ground. Representatives of the merganser species living on the sea eat sea fish.

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