On the Trail - Waterfowl


Published May 8th 2015 in Wildlife, Birds, Pond Life, Waterfowl

The waterfowl (Order Anseriformes) are diversified, yet as a group are very homogenous. All members are swimming birds with relatively short legs and webbed front toes.They have rather long necks and broad bills.All are heavily feathered, and most are strong fliers. Most are highly gregarious, migrating in large flocks. Despite their homogeneity, waterfowl have given avian taxonomists great difficulty in arranging them into natural groups. Based on their anatomy, distribution, habits, and behavior, waterfowl are grouped into a single family, the Anatidae. The family is further divided into several subfamilies, which are further broken into a number of tribes.

Diving ducks run and patter along the surface of the water when taking flight. They all dive under water when feeding. The hind toe is lobed, or flap-like. The legs of diving ducks are located further back on the body close to the tail. Because of this rearward leg placement, the bodies of diving ducks are usually held more upright when walking on land. Diving ducks normally float low in the water with their tails held parallel to the water’s surface. Their wings are relatively small, but their wing beat is rapid.Diving ducks have a strong, direct, and fast flight.

Dabbling ducks are surface feeders commonly found in the shallower waters of creeks, ponds, marshes, and playas. They feed by dabbling or “upending” rather than by diving. Occasionally, they also feed on land.When taking flight, they spring directly into the air instead of pattering over the water’s surface. Most birds in this group have an iridescent speculum on the trailing edge of the wing. Dabbling ducks normally swim with their tails held high out of the water. Their legs are located more anteriorly giving them a more horizontal posture when walking on land.

Classification of the Waterfowl Observed in Midland County, Texas

Order Anseriformes---Waterfowl

Family Anatidae---Ducks, Geese, and Swans

Subfamily Anserinae

Tribe Cygnini---Swans

Tundra Swan---Cygnus columbianus

Tribe Anserini-----Geese

Greater White-fronted Goose---Anser albifrons

Snow Goose---Chen caerulescens

Ross’ Goose---Chen rossii

Canada Goose---Branta canadensis

Subfamily Dendrocygninae

Tribe Dendrocygnini---Whistling-Ducks

Fulvous Whistling-Duck---Dendrocygna bicolor

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck---Dendrocygna autumnalis

Subfamily Cairininae

Tribe Cairinini---Perching Ducks

Wood Duck---Aix sponsa

Subfamily Anatinae

Tribe Anatini---Dabbling Ducks

Mallard---Anas platyrhynchos

Gadwall---Anas strepera

American Wigeon---Anas americana

Northern Pintail---Anas acuta

Northern Shoveler---Anas clypeata

Green-winged Teal---Anas crecca

Blue-winged Teal---Anas discors

Cinnamon Teal---Anas cyanoptera

Subfamily Aythyinae

Tribe Aythyini---Bay Ducks or Pochards

Canvasback---Aythya valisineria

Redhead---Aythya americana

Ring-necked Duck---Aytha collaris

Lesser Scaup---Aythya affenis

Subfamily Merginae

Tribe Mergini---Sea Ducks and Mergansers

Common Goldeneye---Bucephala clangula

Bufflehead---Bucephala albeola

Black Scoter---Melanitta americana

Surf Scoter---Melanitta perspicillata

White-winged Scoter---Melanitta deglandi

Common Merganser---Mergus merganser

Red-breasted Merganser---Mergus serrator

Hooded Merganser---Lophodytes cucullatus

Subfamily Oxyurinae

Tribe Oxyurini---Stiff-tailed Ducks

Ruddy Duck---Oxyura jamaicensis