February is Diving Duck Month here at Bird Rescue, and to celebrate this fun month we wanted to start out by talking about what a diving duck actually is. While all species of duck are in the same family (Anatidae) within that family ducks can be separated out into three main groups; diving ducks, dabbling ducks, and sea ducks/mergansers. Today, we will talk about diving ducks!
Diving ducks get their name from the way that they forage for food – diving underwater! In order to find the mollusks, plants, insects, and fish that they feed on, these athletic little ducks plunge themselves underwater in search of the food that they eat. According to the University of Florida, diving ducks have large webbed feet (which act as paddles) and smaller wings which they press up against their body, enabling them to dive and swim underwater with ease. While their smaller wings and larger feet may help with diving, they aren’t necessarily the best for taking flight, which is why you sometimes see ducks running across the water before taking off.
Most species of diving duck are native to North America, and we commonly see many species from the group at our clinic. Canvasbacks, Ruddy Ducks, Common Goldeneyes, Greater and Lesser Scaups, Surf Scoters, and Buffleheads are all birds that we regularly see throughout the winter months. While most of these birds do not breed in California, they often pass through during winter migration.
While we enjoy celebrating the many unique traits of the diving ducks, their conservation status is a less jovial tale. According to Ducks Unlimited, this extraordinary group of birds has suffered from the deteriorating water quality throughout North America. Increased levels of contaminants in water sources, loss of aquatic vegetation (food) due to erosion, and breeding ground loss due to landfills are just a few of the challenges that these ducks face.
Though conservation may be a concern for these birds, together we can work together in doing our part to make decisions that look out for the water systems and habitats that support them. Join us in celebrating this wonderful group of ducks throughout the month of February, and stay tuned for factoids, photos, and conservation information about this beloved group. For daily updates follow us on Facebook!