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Waterfowl

Scientific name: Anseriformes

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Waterfowl - Anseriformes

Waterfowl - Anseriformes

Photo © Jjohnson61 / Dreamstime.

Waterfowl (Anseriformes) are a group of birds that includes screamers, ducks, geese and swans. There are about 150 living species of waterfowl. Waterfowl, as their name implies, live in aquatic habitats. Most waterfowl species prefer freshwater habitats such as lakes, streams or ponds, though some species live in marine habitats during the non-breeding season.

Waterfowl are medium to large birds. Their plumage may include subtle variations of gray, brown, black or white. Some waterfowl such as the screamers have ornamental feathers on their head and neck while others have brightly colored patches of blue, green or copper on their secondary feathers. The plumage of young waterfowl is usually duller than that of adults.

Waterfowl have webbed feet, an adaptation to their aquatic lifestyle that enables them to swim efficiently.

Waterfowl are often prey for a variety of predator species including humans, red foxes, coyotes, raccoons and striped skunks. Occasionally, waterfowl may also fall prey to other birds such as American crows, black-billed magpies and owls.

Waterfowl inhabit aquatic habitats such as lakes, streams, ponds, rivers, swamps and marshes. Waterfowl have an almost worldwide distribution. They inhabit all continents except Antarctica. Some waterfowl are more restricted in range. The Anhimidae, for example, are restricted to South America, while the Anseranatidae inhabit only Australia and New Guinea.

Waterfowl are herbivorous birds. They feed on a variety of plant material including leaves, stems, grasses, flowers, stems and seeds. Some species eat insects, molluscs, plankton, fish or crustaceans.

The earliest known waterfowl is Vegavis iaai, a bird that lived during the Late Cretaceous. The closest living relatives to Vegavis iaai are ducks, swans and geese.

Classification

There are three groups of waterfowl, the Anhimidae (screamers), the Anseranatidae (magpie goose) and the Anatidae (geese, swans and ducks).

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