​​Identifying Waterfowl

North American waterfowl are often divided into five categories:

  • Dabbling ducks - These ducks feed by tipping down to reach aquatic plants and invertebrates below the surface. Dabbling ducks spring into the air to take flight.
  • Diving ducks - These ducks dive and swim underwater to locate their prey. To take flight, diving ducks need a running start across the water.
  • Sea ducks - Sea ducks are essentially diving ducks, but sea ducks spend a portion of their life in marine or estuarine habitats.
  • Swans and geese - Swans and geese are the largest members of the duck family (Anatidae).
  • Whistling ducks -These ducks are also known as tree ducks and include species such as the Black-bellied Whistling-Duck and Fulvous Whistling-Duck.

Picture of a canvasback duck in the water by United States Fish and Wildlife Service
Canvasback by United States Fish and Wildlife Service

Over 40 species of waterfowl have been documented in Maryland. To assist with identification of these species, please check out the following resources: