A large variety of ducks frequent ponds, marshes and wetlands. The difference in sizes, shapes, plumage colours, voice and habitat can help in distinguishing each species. Ducks have different feeding behaviours and while some, like the canvasback, prefer diving for their food, others, such as the mallard and American wigeon, tip upside down or dabble to reach food at the bottom of ponds.
Mallards are members of a larger species of ducks and are recognised by their bright, shiny green heads. A white ring encircling its neck separates the head from its chestnut-coloured chest, grey sides and black rump. Its bright yellowish-green bill and legs, and coral-red webbed feet create a colourful bird. The female, less colourful than her mate, has a mottled brown-coloured body with a dark stripe running across the sides of her face and her bill. Legs and feet are bright orange. The male emits a low-pitch, rasping “kreep” while the female utters a series of loud quacks. These birds forage close to the water’s edge for seeds, grasses and tubers of aquatic plant material by dabbling or submerging their heads completely in the pond with their “bottoms up” out of the water.
These small ducks spend more time in deep water than other dabbling ducks. They have a reddish-brown body with a speckled greyish head in females and boldly patterned heads in males. Their blue-grey bills have a prominent black border at the base and they have dark grey-webbed feet. The male wigeons, or drakes, have a distinctive black undertail, a white patch on the top of its head and a green band sweeping back from its eyes while females lack these markings. The males make a whistling sound; the hens emit a loud “kaow” or lower “qua-awk.” Their diet consists of plant material, especially young shoots, roots and seeds which they obtain from the surface of shallow wetlands or from dabbling or tipping their bodies while foraging.
Wood ducks are medium sized. The drake is a colourful bird during breeding season with purple iridescence on the head and a droopy crest. His dark green back contrasts with golden sides and a rich, dark reddish breast. A bright red eye and beak along with a variety of white accent marks sets off this bird's plumage. Both males and females are much plainer, with more muted colouring of browns and greys outside of breeding season. Wood ducks are shy and use cattails and reeds to hide during the day. Although they are good divers, they prefer to feed by dabbling or tipping for algae, pond weed, duck weed, seeds and water lilies common in shallow marshes, ponds or streams. The drakes make a squeaky whistle sound of “jweep” when calling to females. The females emit a much louder “oo’eek!” whistle.
Canvasback - Diving ducks
Canvasbacks belong to the largest group of widely distributed waterfowl known as pochards (diving ducks). Unlike other diving ducks, they feed by diving in fairly shallow water for their food, using only their large, webbed feet on legs located toward the rear of their bodies to move underwater. The male canvasback has a muscular, chestnut-red neck and head with brilliant red irises which later become duller in winter. Its black breast and rump, and blackish-brown tail contrasts greatly with its white sides, flank and belly. Females have a lighter brownish-tan head and neck and a little darker grey-brown body. Unique muscle arrangements in their wedge-shaped, long-sloping black beaks allow them to open their beaks after jamming them into the mud to remove submerged vegetation such as root stalks, seeds, buds, tubers and bottom-dwelling, aquatic insects and small crustaceans.