10 Incredible Duck Facts

Written by Jennifer Gaeng
Published: June 26, 2022
Image Credit iStock.com/MikeLane45
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In this article, we will learn about ducks and all their amazing qualities and attributes. Ducks are species of waterfowl that belong to the Anatidae family. They are much smaller than swans and geese and are divided among several other subfamilies. They are aquatic birds that can range anywhere from freshwater to saltwater, and they vary in size, color, and location. Let’s learn some incredible facts about these aquatic birds!

1. There Are At Least 100 Different Types Of Ducks

What Do Wood Ducks Eat - Wood Ducks Swimming
There are over 100 different types of ducks in the world.

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Although geese and swans are not considered ducks, there are still roughly 100 distinct species of ducks in the world. There are 38 distinct species of dabbling ducks, ducks that tend to stick their bottom out in the water when they feed. There are also diving ducks, ducks that dive underneath the water surface in search of food, and there are also ducks that nest inside trees and sit on high branches, known as perching ducks.

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2. All Ducks Have Waterproof Feathers

baby ducks swimming
Ducks are aquatic, and their feathers are waterproof.

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Because these birds are aquatic, they must have the appropriate feathers for wet conditions. In fact, almost all ducks have waterproof feathers, allowing them not to become weighted and immobile when they are in the water. To make their feathers waterproof, they must do something called preening. Preening is when ducks gather a special oil that is produced by the preen gland, a gland located near their tails. Once they gather this oil, they rub it all over their bodies, thus making their feathers waterproof!

3. Ducks Are Omnivores

All ducks are omnivores, meaning they eat both plants and other animals. While it is common for ducks to feed on plants, fruits, and vegetables, they also eat smaller animals such as shellfish, amphibians, insects, and invertebrates. They are not fussy eaters and will pretty much eat anything well-tolerated by their digestive system.

4. Ducklings Walk In Line Behind Their Mother

What do ducklings eat - mom and baby ducks
Baby ducklings eat bugs, algae, plant matter, and birdseed.

shaftinaction/Shutterstock.com

They call it a row of ducks for a reason! While most ducks do this as a source of foraging for food, ducklings tend to do this because their mother is their leader and directs them to their food source, eliminating the dangerous act of leaving the nest unattended in search of food for their young. While they still learn how to hunt and catch food under their mother’s care, whenever they reach about 1 to 1 ½ months of age, they eventually leave their mother and start their lifelong journey without her.

5. Most Ducks Are Monogamous

While ducks don’t always mate for life, most of them are monogamous during the mating process. They partake in seasonal monogamy, meaning that each mating season, they find a mate and reproduce, as well as form a strong bond with their selected mate during this time. When the season is over, and the eggs are laid, the pair separates, unlike swans and geese, who typically mate for life.

6. Ducks Can Fly, Walk, And Swim

ducks in flight
While not all ducks can fly, some do migrate.

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Not only are these birds aquatic, but they also walk on land and fly many different distances. Some ducks you may see spend most of their time hunting and sitting on the water, while others can migrate by walking and flying short distances. Most domestic breeds of ducks do not fly. However, there are some species of duck that can fly and glide, but they are not able to maintain flight for an extended period.

7. Ducks Are Generally Smaller Than Swans And Geese

Ducks are classified as a distinct species, apart from swans and geese, mostly because of their smaller sizes. In fact, one of the largest species of duck is the Muscovy duck, native to South America. This species of duck can grow up to 30 inches long and can weigh up to 30 pounds, which is still smaller than the common goose or swan. One of the smallest species of duck is the Black East Indian duck, a beautiful, emerald green duck that can weigh a maximum of 1 ½ pounds. They are small and incredibly beautiful to look at, their feathers almost appearing as iridescent at times.

8. The Word “Duck” Is An Old English Word

Pekin ducks
Ducks got their name from the old English word “ducan,” which means to duck or to dive.

iStock.com/Maria Jeffs

Ducks got their name from the old English word ducan, which means to duck or to dive, something that these birds can do incredibly well. In fact, there are four species of duck that are notorious for being big divers. The Canvasbacks, redheads, scaup, and ring-necked ducks are indigenous to North America and have been known to be some of the best freshwater divers in the entire world! They can dive anywhere from 1-6 feet underwater and last about 10-20 seconds without air. However, this is the only average distance and time. Many of these breeds can dive a lot deeper for a lot longer as well.

9. Ducks Are Found On Every Continent But Antarctica

Ducks are common birds and can be spotted on pretty much every continent, except for Antarctica. However, there has been one species that has been spotted on the coasts of Antarctica. The yellow-billed pintail, a duck commonly seen in South America, has been known to vacation in Antarctica from time to time. However, it almost always stays on the coastlines and usually does not stay there for a long time due to the harsh and cold climate, as well as the vicious predators such as whales and sea lions.

10. Ducks Don’t Always Quack

mandarin duck reflected in calm water
Quacking isn’t the only form of communication that ducks use.

While ducks are most known for quaking, this isn’t the only form of communication that they use. In fact, ducks can use a series of different noises to communicate. They can also produce a series of barks, honks, growls, coos, chatters, and much more. Although they do not sing like most birds, they have also been known to purr at times as well! They can also communicate non-verbally, rustling splashes in the waters with their bills or the leaves and grass with their feet. They truly are a unique and incredible species with a lot of variety!

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About the Author

A substantial part of my life has been spent as a writer and artist, with great respect to observing nature with an analytical and metaphysical eye. Upon close investigation, the natural world exposes truths far beyond the obvious. For me, the source of all that we are is embodied in our planet; and the process of writing and creating art around this topic is an attempt to communicate its wonders.