A duck is a bird that belongs to a group of small to medium-sized waterfowls that have long necks, short legs and webbed feet. The bills of ducks may either be broad and flat or narrow and toothed. They are commonly called waterfowls because they are normally found in places with water like ponds, streams and rivers.
Ducks are related to Geese and Swans and are the smallest among the three. Life expectancy of ducks is from 2 – 12 years, depending on the species. They are found everywhere in the world except in Antarctica which is too cold for them.
Ducks are an ancient group of birds that have long been useful to man. Wild Ducks have been hunted for a very long time and are still valuable game birds. Ducks have been domesticated for many centuries both for their meat and their eggs.
A wide variety of colors, including dull brown, red and vivid shades of green and blue are displayed by Ducks. Male Ducks are usually more brightly colored their female counterparts. The body of a typical Duck is covered by very dense plumage overlying a warm layer of downy feathers. The Duck is able to keep its feathers waterproof by preening with an oily secretion from a special gland at the base of the tail.
A Duck’s webbed-feet are designed for swimming. They act like paddles for the Ducks. Ducks waddle instead of walk due to their webbed-feet. These feet will not feel cold even if the Duck swims in icy cold water because it has no nerves or blood vessels.
Most wild Ducks feed by straining debris from the bottoms of ponds or lakes through their fringe-edged bill. They are able to obtain seeds, vegetation insects, crustaceans or mollusks through this manner. Larger underwater plants may be torn and eaten piece by piece.
Ducks may nest on the ground, in burrows or in trees. Most of the Duck species lay a large number of eggs, with ten or more being a common clutch size. Both male and female Ducks molt or shed their feathers twice a year. They are flightless for a period of several weeks during the complete molt.
A Duck gives out a special sound which is commonly known as quacking. However, not all Ducks quack. The Wood Duck which is considered by many naturalists and hunters as the most beautiful duck in North America squeals instead of quacking.
The male Wood Duck is unequalled with its multi-colored breeding plumage worn from October to June. The female Wood Duck is less showy but is still more beautiful and colorful than the other female Ducks. Wood Ducks are intermediate in size with both sexes showing a downward pointing crest at the back of the head and long brood square tails which are quite distinctive features in flight.
The Wood Duck is distinctively a North American specie. Bird experts have placed the Wood Duck among the perching Ducks rather than among the typical dabbling Ducks. Wood ducks nest in trees like other perching Ducks which made them good candidates for man-made nesting structure use.
The exploitation of the Wood Duck as a popular game duck sought both for its flesh and its plumage took a toll on its population. It took a total prohibition in hunting to enable it to regain its number. Wood Ducks that nest on natural cavities or in well-protected artificial nest boxes have a higher hatching success than most Duck nests.