Friday, November 14, 2008

Waterfowl Identification: The Basics

Geese, swans, dabbling and diving ducks, and mergansers are all included under the title of waterfowl. These species of waterfowl are very easily identified if they are at close range. The difficulty with the identification of waterfowl comes when trying to identify them at a long distance. Many times you will not be able to identify everything you see and this is especially true with the waterfowl. Many times you will just be able to get a glimpse of a duck when it is flying when it is a long way away.

What to Look For on a Sitting Duck

Plumage Pattern: The pattern is very important and easily used on most species of waterfowl. It is very distinctive and easily used for identification on almost every species of waterfowl.

Shape: Shape can be very useful to separate between different families. Each family, a group of closely related species, can be separated from other families by shape. Many times identifying to species using shape is not possible but it does help in many cases.

Size: The size can be very useful to use when trying to rule out some species of waterfowl. Many times size is hard to judge but with practice and patience it becomes much easier to judge.


Female Mallard. Many times female ducks can be much harder to identify than the males.


Many species of waterfowl are migratory making their way from the northern United States and Canada to the southern and central states. During breeding season these species of waterfowl usually nest on small bodies of water and marshes. During migration most species use large bodies of water including the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, large and small lakes throughout the inland, and the Great Lakes. Many species use these same areas for wintering as well as migration.

1 comment:

Kathiesbirds said...

Good post with useful information. Nice to see you've joined the Sycamore Canyon flock! Welcome!