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Waterfowl are birds that live on or near water. Ducks, geese, and swans are all waterfowl, so they have a lot of similarities. They all have webbed feet, and broad, flat bills. But they have a lot of differences too. Let’s explore them!
Ducks tend to be smaller than geese and swans. The two duck species we see most often around the Nature Museum are mallards and wood ducks. Although they look similar in some ways, they’re actually very different. Mallards nest on the ground close to water. Wood ducks, however, are perching ducks, and nest in trees thanks to their clawed webbed feet. They also have very different calls! Click here to listen to a mallard, and click here to listen to a wood duck.
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Geese are larger than ducks and smaller than swans. Males are called ganders, females are called geese, babies are called goslings, and a group of geese is called a gaggle! Canada geese are a familiar sight in Lincoln Park and near the Nature Museum. They live on and near North Pond, and they eat the grass in the surrounding areas. Their diet almost entirely consists of plants and grains, although they may also eat insects, mollusks, and even small fish.
Teaching Tip: Investigate what geese need to survive in Chicago! Click here to download this activity and explore this topic with your scientist.
Swans are even bigger than geese. Like ducks and geese, there is a special term for swan babies. They’re called cygnets! They are not a native species, but mute swans were first brought to North America and introduced to ponds and lakes in towns and cities. Because of this early introduction, you may spot mute swans around the Chicago area and in Illinois.
Meet the greylag geese!
Have you seen a greylag goose before? These geese are native to northern and central Europe and Asia, but we see these birds around Diversey Harbor every year.
Guiding Question: How do you think these geese got to Chicago? How do they look similar or different from the Canada Geese we are used to seeing in Chicago?
Identify local birds!
Not all waterfowl fall into the duck, goose, or swan bucket! Curious to learn more about and identify the birds you spot on your local ponds and lakes? Download the Merlin app. It’ll help you identify birds by appearance, call, and so much more!
Behind the Scenes
Go on a nature walk with Marjorie! Click here to check out her neighborhood nature walks and find inspiration for your own. What can you spot on your neighborhood nature walk?