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Duck Family
Scientific classification

The Anatidae is the biological family that includes the ducks and most duck-like waterfowl (geese and swans). These are birds that are modified to swim, floating in the water surface, and dive in at least shallow water.

They have webbed feet and bills which are flattened to a greater or lesser extent. Their feathers are excellent at shedding water due to special oils. Duck, eider and goose feathers and down have long been popular for bedspreads, pillows, sleeping bags and coats. The members of this family also have long been used for food.

While the status of the Anatidae as a family is straightforward, and there is little debate about which species properly belong to it, the relationships of the different tribes and subfamilies are poorly understood. The listing in the box at right should be regarded simply one of several possible ways of organising the many species within the Anatidae.

The Anatidae can be seen as having six subfamilies:

  • Dendrocygninae: whistling ducks. There are 9 species in the genus Dendrocygna which has a worldwide distribution through the tropics and subtropics, and a single diving species, Thalassornis leuconotus the White-backed Duck[?] of Africa, which is difficult to classify and has often been placed in the Oxyurinae (which it resembles in morphology and feeding habits). It appears that the similarity is largely a matter of convergence, however.

  • Anserinae: geese and swans. There are 15 species of goose in three genera: Anser (9 species of 'grey' geese), Branta (5 species of 'black' geese, and the monotypic Cape Barren Goose[?]. There are 24 species of swan in three genera: Cygnus, Coscoroba (South America), and Olor, the tundra swans.

  • Tadorninae: shelducks, sheldgeese and steamer-ducks. This group of larger, often semi-terrestrial waterfowl can be seen as intermediate between geese (Anserinae) and ducks (Anatinae). There are 19 surviving species, mostly from the Southern Hemisphere, divided into 6 genera: Cyanochen Blue-winged Goose[?] (Ethiopia), Chloephaga sheldgeese[?] (South America, 5 species), Neochen Orinoco Goose[?] (South America), Alopochen Egyptian Goose (Africa), Tadorna (the shelducks, 7 species), Lophonetta Crested Duck[?], (South America) and Tachyeres (the steamer ducks[?] of South America).

  • Anatinae: perching, diving, and dabbling ducks. The Anatinae are further divided into three groups:

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