Palmipeds: what characterizes this family of birds?


It’s obvious: all palmipeds have feet webbed – fully or partially – from where they get their name. If the ducks and swans are part of our daily life, the canary takes us to more exotic. Portrait of a colorful family.

Three main families of palmipeds

In zoology, the term palmipeds applies to birds whose feet are webbed. Today we are talking about the order of anseriformes which includes three families:

  • Anatidae (ducks, geese, swans…);
  • The anhimidae (kamichis);
  • The anséranatidae (canary).

The palmiped, aquatic animal

As its name suggests, palmipeds have fins on their feet, membranes elastic bands that bind the animal’s fingers together and help it swim. The bird takes advantage of this attribute by taking its food mainly from thewater where he moves with dexterity. Some species, such as cormorant, fly and then submerge themselves deeply to capture a fish while others (duck, swan), are content to dive from the area to reach the plants. More aquatic than terrestrial, the animal evolves more difficult on the ground.

The waterproof plumage of the palmiped

A second characteristic shared by palmipeds is a more long as the paws. This adaptation anatomical allows them to immerse their heads to catch prey or algae in the bottom. Third point common to palmipeds: their plumage has a secretion which waterproofs it. In summary, palmipeds are distinguished by three main attributes:

  • Of feet webbed;
  • A neck longer than the legs;
  • A plumage raincoat.

Focus on anseriformes

Anseriformes (ancient group of palmipeds) have an average size to big (wingspan of 30 to 180 cm) and a weight ranging from 230 grams to 23 kilos for domestic geese. The order of Anseriformes includes 168 species within three families: Anatidae, Anhimidae and Anseranatidae.

Anatidae: the most famous palmipeds

Anatidae is a word derived from anas (duck) with the suffix -idae (related to). This family is divided into six sub-families : one for the swans, one for the geese and four for the ducks. With 164 species, the Anatidae occupies all continents, except Antarctica.

  • Description. These massive, long-necked birds possess narrow – but powerful for their weight – wings that produce rapid flight and energetic reinforced by a developed pectoral musculature. Anatidae have webbed feet with three fingers that allow some species to spend most of their life on the water. Their wide beak has edges serrated that they use as a sieve to sort the vegetables. Their body is covered with a thick down
  • Reproduction. In general, anatidae build a rough nest from the ground and in the middle of a dense vegetation. The mother tears the down from her belly to, first garnish the structure of the nest, then promote incubation and finally, provide a warm envelope to the brood when she is away to look for food. The little ones with fluffy bodies can swim just a few hours after thehatching. The moult of flight feathers and rectrices occurs almost simultaneously and the young can take their flight as soon as their new feathers have reached a sufficient length
  • Food. The diet of Anatidae varies according to the species: some feed exclusively on plants while others consume plankton and small invertebrates. Anatidae take fish and seashells and a few species graze on dry land. Most species show themselves gregarious to eat, sleep or migrate but prefer solitude to nest.

Anhimidae, South American birds

Composed of three species of Kamichis, the family of anhimidae lives only in South America, from Venezuela to Argentina. She frequents swamp, forests, savannahs and open areas withgrass which it feeds by adding a few insects. Equipped with long and robust legs, partially webbed, these large and heavy birds, with the appearance ofwaders, can be 95 cm long and weigh up to 5 kilos. Their wings are provided with a long spur which renews itself periodically. Anhimids are animals lonely who do not migrate.

The anseranatidae, a semi-webbed

Anseranatidae is a family of walking birds weakly webbed and made up of a single species: the semi-webbed canary (Anseranas semipalmata). The large animal is found in northernAustralia and southern New Guinea. The adult takes on a color black on the head, neck, upper breast, most of the wings, rump, tail and upper legs. These dark parts contrast with the underside, mantle, underwing and undertail white. Its long pinkish bill is straight with a well-developed claw.

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