Types of Ducks
Forty six of those species fall into the general duck category, with duck species arranged into seventeen genera.
The number of species/genera varies greatly, from the Wood Duck's (Aix sponsa) singular representation of the Aix genus to the sixteen Anas species, often collectively called the dabbling ducks.
Additionally, one dozen North American ducks get listed as occasional or rare visitors, reducing the native breeding population to the three dozen range.
Native duck populations fluctuate year to year depending on a variety of factors, including availability of suitable breeding habitat.
Generally North American experts suggest that over the past fifty years, North American duck populations remained fairly stable. With over eight million species, the mallard remains the most common North American duck.
Ducks appeal to a large swath of the population from birders to hunters. Their popularity translates into a need for duck identification skills. The more skilled individuals can identify duck species in flight.
Birding enthusiasts flock to parks and ponds across North America, traditional hosts for large populations of both dabbling ducks and diving ducks, the two most common fresh water duck genera.
Species diversity reaches its highest among the dabbling ducks, genus Anas, taxonomic home to the mallard.
Duck popularity extends along two birding branches.
Their inclusion in the broader, non-scientific category, game birds, reflects their historical popularity as wild game. Hunters often learn to identify duck species in flight as well as on the ground.
Their colorful feathers and extended presence in residential areas also makes ducks popular with birding enthusiasts.
The swans, geese and duck species that constitute the family are easily recognized by their small stout bodies, webbed feet and short bills. Males of the species usually have more colorful feather patterns than the females.
The North American Ornithological Union recognize four Anatidae subfamilies, with Anatinae representing the majority of the native population.
Wildlife biologists generally bundle a set of criteria to type ducks, which changes with as scientific information accumulates.
In addition to formal duck classification, scientists also use additional attributes to group ducks. Contrasting eating styles differentiates dabbling ducks and diving ducks.
In terms of sheer numbers, they are the most common of the North American breeding duck species. Many farm areas across North America also traditionally host domestic duck populations.
As a group, sea ducks tend to split their time between Canada and the northern United States, making them some of the least known duck species.
Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) represent the Lophodytes genera.
The top picture shows the male with a raised crest. Female crests lack a white patch.
While classified as sea ducks, the North American population splits its year round residence between pond and forest areas of the Northwest and Southeast.
Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser), the largest and most common of the merganser ducks, inhabit fresh water areas across most of North America
Green feathered head differentiate males and females. Females, like the one in the second pictured, have red feathered heads.
The less common Red-breasted Merganser, picture three, shares some physical characteristics with Common Mergansers. Males have green feathered heads and females have red feathered heads.
Unlike the other two merganser species, they tend to prefer salt water environments over fresh water environments.
Red-breasted mergansers winter along coastal areas of North America, with smaller populations found along inland lakes. Breeding takes place around the arctic circle.
© 2006-2013 Patricia A. Michaels