Ducks are some of the most lovely animals that we have throughout the whole of the UK - they're brightly coloured, often quite friendly, and, to be perfectly honest, simply cute. This means that they've got a huge fanbase throughout the UK, and for good reason.
Throughout this article, we're going to tell you everything that you need to know about ducks, from different species to some obscure facts about certain birds. Without further ado, let's start learning together!
The first thing to cover is that there are a number of different kinds of ducks out there in the world. This might surprise you, as it surprised us when we first found out!
Well, there are a number of different types of wildfowl throughout the UK, namely ducks, geese, and swans. Within the broad category of wildfowl, there are many different individual species of ducks.
The type of duck that you're likely most familiar with is the mallard. It's a large, heavy-looking duck, and wild mallards are common in breeding populations on lakes and other bodies of water that you may visit.
The defining characteristics of ducks can be quite hard to truly nail down, even when you're looking at pictures of them. The truth of the matter is that the defining characteristics aren't really visual, but rather they're taxonomical.
By this, we mean that ducks are generally waterfowl around the size of a rugby ball. The thing that tends to separate them from other waterfowl is that they have short necks and short legs. This means that their torso forms the majority of their mass, while their skinny legs and small head do not.
Where Do Ducks Come From?
Ducks come from Europe, having not really spread around the world too much over time. They're called 'waterfowl', since they dedicate so much of their time and energy to living in lakes and rivers - those bodies of water make them marine birds.
Wild ducks are quite widespread in a number of areas throughout Europe, Asia, North America, and North Africa. It's quite hard to say if they originated in any one of these species, since there are a number of bird species quite similar to them, from sea ducks to other kinds of waterfowl.
There is a wide range of different species of duck, with species like the muscovy duck, mandarin duck, and red-breasted merganser making up the numbers.
The mallard is the most common species of duck and is generally considered, for want of a better term, to be the 'default' duck. When you imagine a duck, there's a good chance that the bird you see is a mallard.
Ducks are generally smaller and shorter-necked than species of swans and geese, though they all tend to inhabit similar bodies of water and belong to the same family.
Dabbling ducks are simple birds, and they have one of the cutest names we've ever heard, especially when you consider that they're named dabbling ducks for dabbling their bills in the water to gather food.
Dabbling ducks are any ducks that feed at the surface of the water rather than diving. A mallard is an example of a dabbling duck since it tends to scoop food off the surface of the water and into its mouth, which is the action of dabbling.
Diving ducks are, unsurprisingly, ducks that dive underneath the surface of the water. These ducks belong in bodies of water deep enough to accept their ability to dive for food. Some example species include the tufted duck and the pochard.
Is a Duck a Bird?
Yes, ducks are birds. From a baby duck to a diving duck and everything in between, they're all birds. This is considered to be so because of the fact that they have wings, hollow bones, and beaks.
The Big Question - Can Ducks Fly
Yes, ducks can fly! Depending upon the duck species, such as mandarin ducks or perching ducks, they may or may not migrate throughout the world, engaging in long-distance flight to be sure that they can find ideal habitats for themselves and their young.
Whether or not the ducks migrate, however, ducks can generally fly. The majority of birds that are considered to be flightless can actually fly, just a little - chickens, for example, can fly for around ninety seconds at a time. Penguins, on the other hand, are incapable of flight, using their wings and flippers for excellent swimming.
Flight among sea ducks
Marine ducks, which are also referred to as sea ducks or diving ducks, are typically very capable of flight. While they can live on the ocean for long periods of time, they also need to be able to return to land for sleep, rest, and nesting season.
What do Ducks eat?
Ducks eat a wealth of different things while they're out in the wild, with their food range including plants and insects alike.
Primarily, wild ducks will eat a range of aquatic plants, including algae and shoreline grasses. This means that the ducks in your local park will generally prefer to eat things that are in the plant world, such as fruits and veggies. They also really enjoy grains - oats (such as the kind you might buy for oatmeal or porridge) are ideal for ducks in parks. Duck food can be purchased right here on our site!
Ducks will also enjoy worms and similar insects when they're available. Ducks do need a fairly large amount of protein to produce eggs, meaning that during nesting season, they may eat a few more insects to ensure they've got enough protein on hand.
The easiest insect to track down to feed ducks in your local park is likely some form of dried worm - mealworms can be bought fairly easily from most supermarkets in order to feed garden birds, and ducks will happily sample munch on those mealworms if they're offered to them.
Male Ducks & Female Ducks
Male ducks and female ducks have a few small differences, depending on their species. There's one difference that speaks for itself, of course - male ducks are one of the few bird species that have a penis, rather than a cloaca. This is a fact that came to prominence online as male mallards and other ducks actually have a penis shaped like a corkscrew.
The other noticeable difference between male and female species of domestic ducks and international ducks is that the male of the species is typically more vibrantly coloured. For example, male ducks in parks typically have brown feathers across their main body, as well as black tailfeathers, green iridescent feathers on their heads, and yellow bills. This is counterposed by the female ducks, which have brown feathers across their whole body, and brown bills.
There are also some behavioural differences between male and female ducks, though these can most prominently be seen during mating season.
During nesting, male ducks are generally more aggressive than female ducks, and will fight off other male ducks to spend some time with ducks they perceive as 'theirs'.
Furthermore, male ducks will engage in a courtship ritual where they duck their head from one side to another repeatedly. This is totally male courtship behaviour.
Ducks in the UK
There is a huge amount of duck species throughout the UK, from the Mallard that you'd recognise from your local park to the common pochard, Eurasian wigeon, and tufted duck.
There are many other unrelated water birds, too, such as swans and geese, throughout the UK. Generally, these birds can exist alongside one another without any meaningful conflict.
The mallard is certainly the duck that you would notice - iridescent feathers on its head and grey-brown across the rest of its body.
An alternative bird to look out for, though, is the Mandarin duck, which is beautifully coloured! Its brown belly is nothing compared to its bright orange tail and neck plumage, both of which are decorated with black stripes. There are white patches around the eyes of the bird and a bright coral beak. The sense of dynamism and movement is exceptionally impressive in the Mandarin duck.
What are Baby Ducks Called?
Baby ducks, such as the young of the red-breasted merganser, are referred to as ducklings. They vary quite a lot between different species, though they're commonly small and fluffy, typically with at least a little yellow across their body.
This, combined with their pink bill, makes for a sweet little creature which is something of an emblem of the springtime season.
Ducks As Pets - Domestic Ducks
Ducks as pets are something that was relatively unheard of until a few years ago. The reason for this is quite simple - they can be tricky to clean up after.
However, ducks as pets have seen a rise in popularity due to the impact of popular social media accounts having domestic ducks.
The most common way to have a duck as a pet in the modern day is, quite simply, to have a duck on your home and land as someone that has a smallholding or something similar. Provided you have some space for the duck to fly around in, a pond, and some other animals for the duck to socialise with, they'll be content to live with you.
Space and socialisation
The main thing that is liable to upset a duck is a lack of space and social activity. Ducks are exceptionally social creatures, meaning that if you keep ducks in your apartment or house, not letting them communicate with other birds and animals in your local area, you're liable to end up with escaped birds sooner or later.
Five facts about Ducks
Duck feathers are extremely waterproof - even when they dive, their innermost feathers will stay totally dry.
Ducks are totally omnivorous and will eat nearly anything you put in front of them, provided they can fit it in their mouths.
Most ducks are monogamous for the period of a mating season, but they don't then go on to mate for life.
Ducks can live for up to twenty years if they're well cared for.
When there is more daylight (due to fluctuation with the seasons) ducks will produce eggs more over time. Farmers keep lights on ducks to ensure they lay consistently the year round.
What other duck species can be found in the UK?
There are a whole host of different ducks throughout the UK, from the long-tailed duck to the common merganser.
To know whether or not you're looking at a duck, the method of identification is really quite simple. The majority of waterfowl that you look at will be either a duck, goose, or swan.
Start off by asking how long the neck of the bird you're looking at is. If the bird has a very short neck, it's likely a duck. If it has a neck around four to six inches long, it's likely a goose. If it has a long, slender neck, it's most likely a swan.
The three types of birds are typically different sizes, too - swans are very large birds, so large that you might struggle to pick one up. Geese are a little smaller, with their body generally being around the size of a medium pumpkin. Ducks are the smallest of the three, with their body being the size and rough shape of a rugby ball.
Why are mallards so violent toward women?
Sadly, the answer to this question is a little upsetting. The truth is that male mallards are essentially forcing the female mallards to mate with them - the aggression is them forcing themselves upon the females.
A strange relationship
There have been some scientific studies suggesting that female birds court this behaviour by seeking out mates and deliberately staying just out of reach. In effect, it could be argued that they deliberately frustrate and confuse the male mallards to elicit this reaction. The reason, scientists believe, is that mallards don't mate very many times in their life. Therefore, females want males to select themselves as aggressive and strong.
Which of our wintering ducks comes from Russia
There are actually very few ducks in Russia, meaning that it's rare for ducks to find themselves wintering in the UK after summering in Russia.
However, there are other birds that winter in the UK, from Russia. The Knot and the Dunlin, for example, are winter-visiting birds that typically live in Siberia and mainland Russia.
What kinds of ducks are there?
There are many species of duck, including some that may spend a lot of their time in the water, and others that rarely dive. However, one really interesting species that we'd love to bring your attention to is the long-tailed duck.
The long-tailed duck is a fascinating sea duck that lives and breeds in a number of the tundra and taiga regions of the Arctic. It winters along the northern coastlines of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, meaning that we're lucky enough to get a glimpse of it in the northernmost parts of Scotland.
Distribution through the UK
Ducks are, really, everywhere throughout the UK. The reason for this is that, as waterfowl, they're happy and contented to live in a great number of different bodies of water, from lakes to rivers, and even the ocean. To this end, since there are many lakes and other bodies of water throughout the UK, there are many different places for ducks to live!
How many types of ducks are there in the UK?
There are a total of twenty-two different species of ducks throughout the whole of the UK, some of which come and go.
Three of those twenty-two species only occur in the UK in the winter, and another fifteen on top of that are far more numerous in the UK during winter than summer. Therefore, the UK is much more populated with ducks in the winter than in the summer.
Is a duck a good pet?
Yes and no. A duck can be a wonderfully good pet, provided you give it the space and happiness that it needs. If a duck is given plenty of space and companionship (and a body of water) they can be a great pet for a farm or smallholding. They'll reduce pests and can provide excellent companionship. Since they're very social creatures, they do have quite developed personalities.
On the other hand, a duck won't be a great domestic pet. Ducks don't do well in small homes and apartments that might not have a garden, since they need some outside space to be totally happy and contented. If you want a duck to be a good pet for you, you really need to offer them a thing or two, too.
What is the rarest duck in the UK?
Scaups are the rarest breed of duck in the UK. They bear a passing resembled of tufted ducks, but there are a few subtle differences in their appearance.
There are only a handful of breeding pairs in the UK, which makes them the rarest breeding ducks in the UK.
How many types of ducks are there in the UK?
There are twenty-two duck species throughout the UK, meaning that they're quite a diverse and complex population. With that number given, though, a number of ducks migrate throughout the year. This means that, during the winter, we have twenty-two species, and during the summer, we can have as few as four species in total.
Common duck species
The most common species of duck in the UK is the mallard, which is notable for its iridescent head feathers on the male of the species. This is the type of duck that you'll likely see at a local park, they're very common in the UK.
What is special about a duck?
Really, there's nothing too special about ducks overall. With that said, though, we would argue that's what makes them special! They're a beautiful, complicated, and elegant part of the ecosystem of the UK, and they're surely going to be a part of it for many years to come.
The way to approach wildlife, in our humble opinion, is to be sure that you approach them with love, care, and curiosity. When approaching any kind of wildlife with that mindset, you'll start to see what's special about each and every different species. Whether it's a pretty feather coloration or an interesting call, there is something special about every species out there.