The Duck, Geese and Swan Family
(Anatidae)

Order: Duck, Geese and Swans
(Anseriformes)

Teal

Tufted Duck

Pochard

Goldeneye

 

 

Mallard DuckCanada GooseMute Swan

These birds are water birds, and have webbed feet, which help them to swim. Many of them are excellent divers.

You can now explore:

Mallard Duck

Canada Goose

Mute Swan

Teal

Tufted Duck

Pochard

Goldeneye

Shoveler

 

Canada Goose

Branta canadensis

 

 
Canada Goose

 

 

People brought these birds to Britain from Canada to decorate ponds and lakes. Now, there are many Canada Geese breeding wild in Britain.

Canada Geese have a light ash-brown body and a black neck and head, with a white face patch.

 

Habitat

Canada Geese can be found on lakes, wide rivers and parks.

 

Food

Canada Geese, like other geese, mostly graze on grass, and some other vegetation.

 

Nest and Eggs

 

Look out on the ground near the water's edge, for a flat mass of leaves, reeds, twigs and bark, with a layer of soft fluffy feathers. The nests of Canada Geese are often found on islands in lakes and rivers. Three to seven creamy white eggs are laid, in April or May.

 

Where and When?

Canada Geese are resident in Britain all year long, and most of them are found in East Anglia, the Home Counties and in the Midlands.

Call

They make a "honk" sound, which can be quite an earful !

 

Length

102 cm.

 

Fun Fact

Male and female adult Canada Geese have the same colouring, and both parents help to defend the nest.

This is very unlike Ducks, because the female Duck relies on camouflage to protect herself and her nest, while the male plays no part in protecting or caring for the young.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Mute Swan

Cygnus olor

 

 

Mute Swan

 

 

 

 

You are probably familiar with this large, white and graceful bird.

It has a deep orange beak, with black at each end. The orange and black beak helps us to distinguish between this, the Mute Swan, and the rarer Whooper and Bewicks Swans, both of which have yellow and black beaks.


The Mute Swan also holds its neck in an elegant S-shape, unlike the other swans, which hold their necks straight.

When excited, the Mute Swan will curve its wings into a graceful arch as it floats on the water.

The young Mute Swans are a brown-grey colour.

 

Habitat

Mute Swans are found mostly on inland waters such as lakes and rivers. However, some spend the winter in estuaries.

 

Food

Mute Swans eat mostly water plants and insects.

 

Nest and Eggs

The nest is a mass of squashed vegetation on the ground by the water's edge.

The eggs are greenish-white, and five to twelve are laid in April.

Both parents carefully and aggressively guard the nest from intruders.

When the eggs hatch, the young cygnets follow their parents. Sometimes they are carried on their parents' backs, sheltered by their Mum or Dad's curved white wings.

 

Where and When?

The Mute Swan can be found all year long throughout Britain.

Some of them migrate to warmer areas in the winter.

Others investigate a few miles around their normal home area, but do not go very far.

 

Call

The Mute Swan will make grunting, barking and hissing noises when angry.

 

Length

152 cm.

 

Fun Fact Mute Swans are so-called because they are mostly silent. When flying, they do not make the loud calls characteristic of the Whooper and Bewicks Swans.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Mallard
(Wild Duck)

Anas platyrhynchos

 

 
Mallard (male)

 

The Mallard is the best-known wild duck in Britain. The male is known as the "drake", and the female is known as the "duck".

The drake is quite colourful. He has a shiny bottle-green head with a white collar. The top of his body is brown, and the sides are grey.

Both the drake and the duck have purple-blue bars on their wings, outlined with a strip of black, then a strip of white.

During the summer, Mallards moult, gradually replacing old feathers with new. During this time the male's colourful plumage becomes duller and brown. At this time, the males look like the females, apart from their beak, which is yellow, instead of brown. The females have a dark patch on the top of their heads.

Habitat

They are found on freshwater lakes and marshes, as well as in estuaries.

 

Food

Mallards don't seem to be fussy about their food! They will eat almost anything, including animals such as insects, worms, slugs, snails and frogs.

They also eat grains and berries. They dabble at the surface of the water for any floating insects or seeds, and stick their heads down in the water to search in the mud for other tasty morsels.

 

Nest and Eggs

The Mallard's nest is made of grass, other plants and feathers, and is sometimes found low down in a tree, or more usually on the ground near the water.


Where and When?

Mallards are resident in most parts of Britain, throughout the year. Some Mallards do migrate, flying to more southerly, warmer countries to avoid the cold winter.

 

Call

Mallards make loud noises like "Quark" and "Dreek", as well as a softer quacking sound.

 

Length

58 cm. A medium sized duck.

 

Fun Fact When the Mallard Duck leaves her nest in search of food, she covers the eggs with a layer of leaves and soft feathers. This helps to keep the eggs warm and hidden from predators, such as Falcons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teal

Anas crecca

 

 
Teal (male)

 

 

The Teal is an attractive little duck. The head of the male is a chestnut brown colour, with shiny green curved eye patches. The male's body feathers are grey, with a long white stripe above the wing, and a yellow rear.

The female is brown, with a straw-coloured stripe above the eye. When moulting, the male looks just like the female.

They are fast flyers, and swerve around in the air in tight groups.

 

Habitat

Teals prefer lakes and pools with lots of plants growing at the water's edge. During the winter, they can be found in estuaries.

 

Food

Teals feed on small items picked from the water's edge such as seeds and insects. They also eat small crustaceans such as shrimp, and will eat most little creatures they find in the mud.

 

Nest and Eggs

The nest is made of leaves and stems, as well as dark brown feathers. It can be found on the ground amongst reeds and rushes at the water's edge, or in a wood.

The eggs are laid eight to twelve at a time, and are muddy yellow or green. They will be laid in the nest any time during April, May and June.

 

Where and When?

Most Teals are resident, and can therefore be found in Britain all year long.

 

Call

They make a whistle sound and other notes.

 

Length

36 cm. A very small duck.

 

Fun Fact

Only the female Teal, known as the "duck" actually quacks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tufted Duck

Aythya fuligula

 

 

Tufted Duck (male)

 

 

This is a diving duck, with a small drooping tuft of feathers growing out of the back of its head, hence the name.

The male tufted duck is black and white. The head, neck, back and wings are shiny black, while the sides of the body are white. The female is brown.

 

Habitat

Tufted Ducks prefer lakes, reservoirs and slow-moving rivers.

 

Food

They feed mainly on molluscs such as snails, as well as shrimps, insects and waterweed.

 

Nest and Eggs

The nest is made of reeds, other plants and soft feathers. It is made on the ground, hidden amongst plants.

The eggs are olive green colour, and eight to ten are laid at one time.

 

Where and When?

Tufted Ducks can be found throughout Britain from April to October.

 

Call

They make a "currah" sound as well as a soft note.

 

Length

43 cm.

 

Fun Fact Tufted Ducks roll on their sides in the water when cleaning their feathers with their beaks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pochard

Aythya ferina

 

 
Pochard (male)

 

 

The Pochard has a chestnut brown coloured head and neck, black breast, pale grey body, and a black tail. The females are a brown version of the male.

 

Habitat

They are usually found in lakes, but can sometimes be found in the sea.

 

Food

Pochards favour waterweed, as well as water insects, molluscs and crustaceans.

It dives to find much of its food.

 

Nest and Eggs

Made of plants and soft feathers, the Pochard's nest is found on the ground, close to the water.

The female will lay six to twelve green or pale yellow eggs, in April, May or June.

 

Where and When?

Pochards are resident to Britain, and small numbers can be found throughout.

During the winter, there are greater numbers of Pochards in Britain. This is because some migrate southwards from more northerly countries to spend winter here.

 

Call

The Pochard makes a croaking "quack" sound. The male can also make a soft whistling sound.

 

Length

46 cm.

 

Fun Fact In the winter, many Pochards fly south, and often live in mixed groups with other types of diving duck.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goldeneye

Bucephala clangula

 

 
Goldeneye

 

 

This is an easily identified bird. The male has a distinctive black and white body. He has a white patch on his face, just at the base of the beak. The rest of his face is black, with a dark green sheen.

The female is grey, with a white collar and a brown head.

Goldeneyes have rather triangular-shaped heads, and short beaks.

 

Habitat

This duck can be found on lakes, large rivers, ponds or in the sea.

 

Food

The Goldeneye is a very good diver. It feeds mostly on tiny animals found at the bottom of the water, such as snails and insect larvae.

 

Nest and Eggs

Goldeneyes nest in tree-holes, near to the water.

The eggs are a bluish green colour. Six to 11 are laid, and packed snugly in soft grey feathers.

However, you will not find their eggs in Britain, because they breed elsewhere in Europe.

 

Where and When?

The Goldeneye is a winter visitor to Britain, when it can be found throughout.

They begin to arrive here in September and stay until March or April.

 

Call

The male makes a "quee reek" sound and the females make a "kurr kurr" sound.

 

Length

46 cm.

 

Fun Fact The eyes of the Goldeneye are a light yellow colour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shoveler

Anas clypeata

 

 

The unusual bill (beak) of these ducks is large, flat, and looks a bit like a shovel, hence the name "Shoveler". It is especially good at filtering food from the surface of the water.

 

The head of the drake (adult male) is dark bottle-green, the breast is white, and the underparts are a bright red-brown chestnut colour.

His back is a black-brown colour with a shiny blue effect. It can sometimes be confused with the Mallard, but can be recognised by its large flat bill.

If the Shoveler is flying, you will see a light blue patch on its wing.

 

Habitat

Because of the way they feed, Shovelers like to live in shallow, food-rich lakes and ponds.

 

Food

The Shoveler uses its large flat beak to filter out small animals and seeds. It chatters its beak over the surface of the water or through runny mud.

Their bill contains a fine filtering system, which lets out the water, but traps bits of animal and plant food.

 

Nest and Eggs

The nest will be hidden amongst reeds in the water, or at the water's edge or in a meadow.

The adult Shoveler makes the nest warm and soft by lining it with soft feathers. The female will lay seven to twelve greenish-grey eggs.

Where and When?

Many Shovelers pass through Britain on their way to somewhere else and do not stay for long. Others visit for summer or winter.

A few Shovelers stay in Britain all year long, and breed here, from April to May.

 

Call

The male makes a low "took took" sound, while the female quacks just like a Mallard.

 

Length 51 cm. A very large Duck, almost as big as the Mallard.
Fun Fact When the male and female Shoveler court, they energetically nod their heads at each other.