Site hosted by Build your free website today!


Please choose an animal from the list below:

Family Anatidae

Subfamily Anserinae

Canada Goose
Aleutian Canada Goose sbspp.

Order Anseriformes

Anseriformes is a well-known order containing highly aquatic birds, including ducks, geese, swans, and screamers. These species are found worldwide, with, of course, the exception of Antarctica.

Most Anseriformes share several characteristics in common. Most are strong fliers and strong swimmers (although there are some flightless species). They have three-toed feet with the toes linked together by webbing, acting somewhat like the flippers of a scuba diver. Most species have relatively long necks and flattened bills, features that are ideal for rooting for food along the river's bottom. One feature unique to most Anseriformes that is not found in any other bird order is that they moult all of their flight feathers at one time, leaving them flightless for several weeks. Many species are migratory, heading south in the winter. Many species, like the Canada goose, migrate in large groups that form a V-shape pattern while flying, a pattern which is very aerodynamic. In the order Anseriformes there are some birds that do not share all of these characteristics. One group is known as the screamers, so named due to the loud call they make when threatened. They are large birds with chicken-like beaks, not flat duckbills like the other Anseriformes. They are strong swimmers, but they have very little webbing on their feet. They are often found around swamps. Another unusual bird in this order is the magpie goose, the least aquatic Anseriform. Their bills are hooked and their feet are only semi-webbed. Also, they only undergo a partial moult of the flight feathers instead of a complete moult. They are only found in northern Australia. Whistling ducks comprise another group in this order that is a little different. They are mostly unique in their behaviour: they often nest in trees and they preen each other, a trait not found in most ducks.

Anseriformes are well known for the ease at which they can become domesticated. The mallard was first domesticated nearly 2000 years ago, the eastern greylag goose almost 4000 years ago. Various breeds of these species are commonly found on farms today.

Anseriformes often make their nests near the water's edge, although whistling ducks nest in trees and the torrent duck nests in holes in the riverbank. Screamers nest offshore in shallow water. Most Anseriformes are solitary nesters, but the eider duck nests in large colonies.

Most Anseriformes are herbivorous in nature, feeding on water plants, although some species, like the screamers, will eat insects. A common pastime of many people is to feed ducks stale bread; this is not the wisest thing to do, as bread contains very little of the nutrients that they require; as a result, they can die from malnutrition.

The classification of this order was recently revised from a four-family system to a two-family system with several subfamilies. There are at least two different ways to divide this new system; both ways will be shown, but the first way will be used on this site. There are 161 species:

1st 2-family method:

Anhimidae (screamers) 3 spp
Anatidae (ducks, geese, swans, magpie geese, whistling ducks) 158 spp
Subfamily Anseranatinae (magpie geese) 1 spp
Subfamily Cygninae (mute swam, Bewick's swan, whooper swan, etc)
Subfamily Anserinae (whistling duck, snow geese, Canada geese, etc)
Subfamily Anatinae (shelducks, surface feeding ducks, eiders, diving ducks)

2nd 2-family method:

Anhimidae (screamers) 3 spp
Anatidae (ducks, geese, swans, magpie geese, whistling ducks) 158 spp
Subfamily Dendrocygninae (whistling geese) 9 spp
Subfamily Anserinae (geese, swans)
Subfamily Anatinae (ducks)

Old 4-family method:

Anhimidae (screamers) 3 spp
Anatidae (ducks, geese, swans) 148 spp
Subfamily Anserinae (geese, swans)
Subfamily Anatinae (ducks)
Anseranatidae (magpie geese) 1 spp
Dendrocygnidae (whistling ducks) 9 spp