Waterfowl – Ducks, Swans, and Geese, Oh My!


Photo via Flickr.

Waterfowl are a kind of bird that are commonly seen in the Rocky Mountains. Do you know what birds are and aren’t waterfowl?

Here in the Rocky Mountains I often hear someone talk about different kinds of birds such as birds of prey or waterfowl.  I know what birds of prey are, those big birds that hunt such as hawks or eagles.  But, I was never sure exactly what people meant when they talked about waterfowl.  After some research, here is my explanation of what they mean and some of the other ways people describe birds.

How Many Different Kinds of Birds Are There?

Birds are one of the animals that have successfully moved into and live in every habitat in the world.  The birds that live in the different habitats can look very different than each other.  For example, a pelican has a large body and big wings that help it to soar over oceans.  On the other hand, a hummingbird is tiny, which allows it to fly around looking for nectar.

In general birds are classified based on those they most resemble.  Scientists and others use many terms to group birds together into categories when describing them.  The different terms and categories can be quite confusing.

Some of the common categories of birds that are used to describe birds include birds of prey, herons, hummingbirds and swifts, waterfowl, songbirds, ground birds, owls, shorebirds, and perching birds among others.

What Birds Are Waterfowl?

There are about 150 different species that fall into this category.  These birds all live in and around water.  One characteristic that they all share is that they have webbed feet.  Those feet help them move through the water quickly.  Here are some examples.


A wood duck is a kind of waterfowl. Photo via Flickr.

True ducks – these include the Mallard, Northern Pintail, and Wood Duck.

Geese, such as Canada Goose.


A Trumpeter Swan. Photo via Flickr.

Swans – These are among the largest of the waterfowl.


A beautiful harlequin duck. Photo via Flickr.

One other good example is the Harlequin duck.