| Ring-necked duck|
female (l), male (r)
Ducks are species of waterfowl birds of the family Anatidae, which also includes screamers, geese, and swans. In a more specific sense, the name "duck" is applied to the smaller members of the family.
The word "duck" originates in 14th century Old English, with the word dūce; a verb meaning lowering one's head or body to avoid something. This evolved into the Middle English word douken, which in turn became the word used today. The word also describes the actions of many of the birds themselves, as they suddenly dip their heads into the water when searching for food, leaving their rear parts upended above the water's surface.
Ducks are streamlined, bearing waterproof plumage. Males are strikingly different in coloration than females; depending on the species the male exhibits bold or iridescent color patterns over some or most of its body. Females are usually a brownish color throughout. The feet are fully-webbed on three toes and are set further to the rear as opposed to other birds, giving it a characteristic "waddling" gait when walking. The bill gently curves downward from the head into a rounded, almost flattened tip.
Ducks have no precise toxonomic classification; some species of ducks are commonly called "geese", while others - such as the mergansers - are neither geese nor ducks.
- Subfamily: Anatinae; dabbling ducks (40-50 species)
- Subfamily: Aythyinae; diving ducks (15 species)
- Subfamily: Dendrocygninae; whistling ducks (8 species)
- Subfamily: Merginae; eiders, scoters, sawbills, sea-ducks (20 species)
- Subfamily: Oxyurinae; stiff-tail ducks (8 species)
- Subfamily: Stictonettinae (1 species)
- Subfamily: Tadorninae – shelducks (21 species)
- Subfamily: Thalassorninae (1 species)
Ducks as food
Ducks are frequently hunted and raised as livestock for their meat. Since ducks are cleaner animals in general than chickens their meat is much less likely to be infected with salmonella and as a result their meat can be served rare (like steak). It is much more aromatic and fatty than the meat of the chicken, and is preferred as an alternative by those who can afford it. A common analogy to describe the flavor of duck is that "duck is to chicken as lamb is to beef." Duck is common in cuisines throughout the world, notably the cuisines of France (such as in duck confit), China (in Peking duck), Burma, Vietnam, Thailand (in curries), Cambodia. The French often use duck fat in their cooking where British or American cuisine would call for lard (which is pork fat).