Scientific Name
Various in the orders Pelecaniformes (herons), Anseriformes (ducks, geese), Gruiformes (coots, cranes)
Geographic Range
North, Central, and South America
Aquatic vegetation, terrestrial grasses and grains, insects, fish, depending on species

More Information

Anseriformes make up one of the oldest currently living groups of birds, along with Galliformes (pheasants and fowl). Ancient waterfowl lived alongside the dinosaurs and survived the Mesozoic extinction.

Dabbling ducks, such as mallards and wood ducks, will dive down, only partially submerging their bodies, to forage for aquatic vegetation and animals. Similarly, Canada geese will forage for aquatic vegetation at the water’s surface, but will also feed on terrestrial grasses, grains, and sometimes insects. Herons use their long, slender legs and spear-like bills to patiently hunt for fish, crustaceans, and other animals in shallow waters. Some birds, such as American coots, are adept divers, propelling themselves underwater in search of food using specialized lobed feet.

Did You Know?

  • The colorful patch on the wings of many ducks, such as mallards and wood ducks, is called a speculum. It can be very helpful in species identification, especially with females or ducks in non-breeding plumage.
  • Some diving ducks, including mergansers, have serrated bills that help them grip fish and other prey.
  • A huge variety of bird species use the aquatic habitat at Nature Boardwalk, including mallard ducks, wood ducks, Canada geese, great blue herons, green herons, American coots, and common goldeneyes.
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