Like many birds, ducks come in different shapes, sizes, and colors. Classically found around water, ducks are often referred to as waterfowl.
Ducks form a group of numerous bird species found in the family Anatidae. Ducks appear similar to geese and swans (from the same family) but are smaller, and have shorter necks.
Ducks are without a doubt birds, but what makes them so?
Let’s take a deeper look into ducks and why they are considered birds, as well as discover some interesting facts about the world’s favorite waterfowls.
- 1 What Is a Bird?
- 2 Common Characteristics of a Bird
- 3 Can Ducks Be Considered Birds?
- 4 10 Fascinating Facts About Ducks
- 5 5 Of The Worlds Most Mesmerizing Ducks
What Is a Bird?
Before discovering what makes a duck a bird, we need to understand what a bird is, and how to classify one.
Birds are classified under the following:
- Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)
- Phylum: Chordata (Vertebrates or animals with a backbone)
- Class: Aves (Birds)
From this point, bird species become more specific and are often argued about due to hybridization and different classification methods.
Birds differ greatly across species, from color to diet, habitat, size, and even behavior, but some characteristics remain consistent across all Ave species.
Common Characteristics of a Bird
For a bird to be considered a bird, it would need to have the following characteristics:
- Have a feathered body (some birds, such as penguins, have specially adapted feathers). No other species on earth has feathers, which can be used as a sole identifier
- A four-chambered heart
- Birds have a bill or beak with no teeth
- Production of hard-shelled eggs
- Warm Blooded
- Most birds have hollow bones that aid them with flight, although some such as penguins and some diving birds have marrow-filled bones to aid them with diving.
Can Ducks Be Considered Birds?
Now that we have established the characteristics of a bird, we can compare them to that of ducks to determine whether a duck can be considered a bird.
Although we already know that ducks are birds, let’s take a look at why we can consider them to be so.
The Characteristics of Ducks
Let’s ask ourselves the same questions we use to identify birds and find out if ducks fit the category.
Do Ducks Have Feathers?
Yes, all ducks have feathers that aid them in flight, attract mates, and protect them from harsh weather conditions.
Ducks have different types of feathers that can be classified as follows:
- Contour feather: The outermost feather that covers the duck’s wings, tail
- Down feather: The first fine layer of feathers on the duck’s body (these trap air and prevent heat loss)
- Filoplumes feathers: Stiff hair-like feathers appearing at the base of the contour feathers
- Semiplumes feathers: Found hiding under the contour feathers, these provide insulation and maintain the feather appearance of aquatic birds
How Many Chambers Do Duck Hearts Have?
Similarly to mammals, ducks have a four-chambered heart made up of two atria and two ventricles.
This four-chambered cardiovascular system keeps oxygenated and deoxygenated blood separate.
Ducks, along with other birds tend to pump more blood per unit than mammals. This means that they have a much higher cardiac output (hence the fast metabolism).
Do Ducks Have A Bill/ Beak?
Although bills and beaks are often used differently, the names are synonymous.
Many people refer to beaks as when the bill is pointed, and bill when they are rounded and fleshy, although ornithologists tend to use them interchangeably (with a preference for “bill”).
All ducks have a beak/ bill that forms a jaw-like structure that makes up their mouth.
Ducks have specially adapted bills for feeding in muddy areas, strong beaks for breaking shells, or serrated edges (but not teeth) that aid in holding slippery food.
Do Ducks Lay Eggs?
The answer to whether ducks lay eggs is straightforward. Yes, all ducks lay eggs, and at a fairly high rate.
Ducks begin laying eggs at approximately 4 – 7 months old. Duck eggs are porous, particularly at the rounded ends. This makes it possible for oxygen and moisture to travel through the shell and supply the chick within.
Ducks generally lay a single egg within 24 – 48 hours, although this depends on species, where some ducks can lay a clutch size (a full set of eggs) within two days.
Are Ducks Warm Blooded?
All mammals and birds are warm-blooded. Ducks, being part of the bird family, also share these warm-blooded characteristics.
This means that they can regulate their internal body temperature without the need for external factors.
Coldblooded animals such as reptiles, on the other hand, need to move between differently heated areas to maintain a regular body temperature.
Do Ducks Have Hollow Bones?
Although not all birds have hollow bones, however, birds are the only land species that do have hollow bones.
This means that although the lack of hollow bones does not necessarily indicate a species is a bird, the presence of hollow bones does.
Ducks, like most birds, have hollow bones that assist them with flight, as well as floating.
Although ducks do have hollow bones, not all their bones are hollow, with some being denser and filled with bone marrow.
10 Fascinating Facts About Ducks
Ducks are fascinating birds and are among some of the most loved in the bird world. Let’s take a look at some interesting bird facts and find out why these waddling waterfowl are so loved.
1. Ducks, similar to other bird species such as penguins, sleep half awake, and in some cases sleep with one eye open as a defense mechanism.
2. Tiny pore openings in duck eggshells allow chicks to breathe.
3. Ducks’ feathers are extremely water resistant. Even when fully emerged, the feathers directly against the skin remain dry.
4. Ducks are omnivorous, meaning they feed on both plant and animal material such as seeds, grass, aquatic plants, fruit, insects, fish, crustaceans, snails, and other small animals.
5. Most duck species are monogamous throughout the breeding season, however, they rarely pair for a lifetime, often changing partners each season.
6. Ducks are gregarious, meaning they enjoy the company of others, and therefore strive in groups of other ducks.
7. Unique blood vessels in the feet keep ducks warm during cold weather.
8. Male ducks, like many bird species, have more colorful feathers than females.
9. Ducks are referred to as waterfowl as they are found to spend most of their time in and around water bodies.
10. Duck eggs take between 28 and 35 days to hatch once laid.
5 Of The Worlds Most Mesmerizing Ducks
Now that we are sure that ducks are birds, and know a few interesting facts about them, let’s take a look at some of the most jaw-dropping ducks that planet earth has to offer.
1. Harlequin Duck
One of the most spectacular ducks in North America, the Harlequin male represents striking plumage of blue, chestnut, and white.
Harlequins are best spotted in winter when they congregate on rocky shorts of the Pacific Northwest and Northeast Atlantic coast.
As sea ducks, these birds face a rough lifestyle and often face broken bones thanks to rough water conditions.
2. Mandarin Duck
A small exotic-looking duck that is found around lakes, parks, and nearby trees.
The male is highly decorated with big orange-colored “sail fins” on the back, streaked orange cheeks, and a small red bill with a white tip.
Female Mandarins have narrow white spectacles on their gray head, bold spots along their flanks, and a pale bill tip.
Native to East Asia (although also found in Western Europe, they are usually seen in pairs or individually, although they do group in larger flocks over winter.
3. Wood Duck
One of the most stunningly striking waterfowl, the male Wood Duck boasts an iridescent chestnut and green feather pattern with highly decorated patterns on nearly every feather.
Females have a delicate white pattern around the eye.
Wood Ducks can be found living in wooded swamps where they make their nests in holes in trees or nest boxes that have been established around the lake.
Wood Ducks are one of the few duck species with claws on their feet which allows them to grip and perch on branches.
4. King Eider Duck
The male King Eider Duck represents one of the most magnificent of the waterfowl world.
With its black-and-white plumage, red-and-orange bill, pearl-blue crown, and spring-green cheek, it’s hard to look away once one has been spotted.
King Eiders nest in the tundra in the far north, and winter is largely at the edge of sea ice where they feed on shellfish.
Their return to breeding areas is a spectacular show as they pass by northern Alaska. This phenomenon is one that all bird lovers should see.
Mallards are one of the most iconic ducks, and what comes to mind when the word “duck” is mentioned to many.
Mallards can be found throughout North America and Eurasia among ponds, parks, wild estuaries, and wetlands.
The male’s bright green head makes them easily identifiable, along with its gray flanks and black tail curl.