Waterfowl (Ducks, Geese & Swans)


Family : Anatidae, containing around 163 extant species separated into five subfamiles and various tribes :-

Subfamilies :
       Dendrocygninae (Whistling-Ducks)
       Stictonettinae (Freckled Duck)
       Plectropterinae (Spur-winged Goose)
       Anserinae (primarily Geese and Swans, but also Pygmy-Geese, Stiff-tailed Ducks and Musk Duck), separated into four tribes
       Anatinae (Ducks), separated into six tribes

The above structure is taken from the “Taxonomy in Flux” system, with the subfamilies listed in systematic order. Two of these subfamilies, Stictonettinae and Plectropterinae, contain just a single monotypic species.

In general most authorities use the same tribe names to segregate species, although some will separate swans and list them under Cygnini whereas others, including the TiF system, lumps them together with the true geese in Anserini.

It should be noted that under the TiF system, the Mergini ‘seaducks’ tribe is grouped together with all the freshwater ducks in subfamily Anatinae, whereas some authorities will separate them into their own subfamily Merginae.

The following checklist is an abridged and partially selective listing at both subfamily and tribe level.

This list is for personal reference, which is why certain species (42no) are highlighted - these being the species that I have both seen and photographed in the wild.


Subfamily : Dendrocygninae, with 9 species of which I’ve photographed just two being :-
  • White-faced Whistling-Duck - Dendrocygna viduata
  • Black-bellied Whistling-Duck - Dendrocygna autumnalis

The two monotypic species that have their own dedicated subfamily are :-

Subfamily : Stictonettinae
  • Freckled Duck - Strictonetta naevosa

Subfamily : Plectropterinae
  • Spur-winged Goose - Plectropterus gambensis

Geese and Swans, plus Musk Duck, Pygmy-Geese and Stiff-tailed Ducks

Subfamily : Anserinae, with 38 species separated into four tribes :-

      Biziurini : a designated tribe purely for the monotypic Musk Duck,
      Nettapodini : for 3 species of Pygmy-Geese,
      Oxyurini : which includes 7 species of Stiff-tailed Duck, and

      Anserini : True Geese and Swans (selective listing from 27 species)
  • Black Swan - Cygnus atratus
  • Mute Swan - Cynus olor
  • Whooper Swan - Cygnus cygnus
  • Trumpeter Swan - Cygnus buccinator
  • Tundra Swan - Cygnus columbianus / Bewick’s Swan - Cygnus bewickii (conspecific)
  • Brent Goose / Brant - Branta bernicla
  • Canada Goose - Branta canadensis
  • Barnacle Goose - Branta leucopsis
  • Bar-headed Goose - Anser indicus
  • Snow Goose - Anser caerulescens
  • Greylag Goose - Anser anser
  • White-fronted Goose - Anser albifrons
  • Taiga Bean-Goose - Anser fabalis
  • Pink-footed Goose - Anser brachyhynchus


Subfamily : Anatinae, with around 114 extant species separated into six tribes :-

      Tadornini : Shelducks and Sheldgeese, intermediate between true geese and ducks (selective listing from 14 species)
  • Orinoco Goose - Neochen jubata
  • Egyptian Goose - Alopochen aegyptiaca
  • Common Shelduck - Tadorna tadorna
  • Ruddy Shelduck - Tadorna ferruginea

      Mergini : Sea Ducks or ‘seaducks’ (full listing of all 19 or 20 extant species)
  • Harlequin Duck - Histrionicus histrionicus
  • Long-tailed Duck - Clagula hyemalis
  • Steller’s Eider - Polysticta stelleri
  • Spectacled Eider - Somateria fischeri
  • King Eider - Somateria spectabilis
  • Common Eider - Somateria mollissima
  • Surf Scoter - Melanitta perspicillata
  • Velvet Scoter - Melanitta fusca (the TiF system lumps these two species together)
  • White-winged Scoter - Melanitta deglandi (the TiF lumps these two species together)
  • Common Scoter - Melanitta nigra
  • Black Scoter - Melanitta americana
  • Bufflehead - Bucephala albeola
  • Common Goldeneye - Bucephala clangula
  • Barrow’s Goldeneye - Bucephala islandica
      The following six species are also known as ‘sawbills’ because of the serrated edges to their bills that assist holding fish :-
  • Smew - Mergellus albellus
  • Hooded Merganser - Lophodytes cucullatus
  • Brazilian Merganser - Mergus octosetaaceus
  • Goosander or Common Merganser - Mergus merganser
  • Red-breasted Merganser - Mergus serrator
  • Scaly-sided Merganser - Mergus squamatus

      Cairinini : Perching Ducks (albeit, some authorities place these three species with Anatini rather than within their own tribe)
  • Muscovy Duck - Cairina moschata
  • Wood Duck - Aix sponsa
  • Mandarin Duck - Aix galericulata

      Callonettini : Ringed Teal - Callonetta leucophrys

      Aythyini : Diving Ducks (selective listing from 23 species)
  • Knob-billed Duck - Sarkidiornis melanotos, also known as the African Comb Duck
  • Red-crested Pochard - Netta rufina
  • Ferruginous Duck - Aythya nyroca
  • Redhead - Aythya americana
  • Common Pochard - Aythya ferina
  • Canvasback - Aythya valisineria
  • Tufted Duck - Aythya fuligula
  • Greater Scaup - Aythya marila
  • Lesser Scaup - Aythya affinis

      Anatini : Dabbling Ducks (selective listing from 54 species)
  • Brazilian Teal - Amazonetta brasiliensis
  • Garganey - Spatula querquedula, formerly Anas querquedula
  • Puna Teal - Spatula Puna, formerly Anas puna
  • Cinnamon Teal - Spatula cyanoptera, formerly Anas cyanoptera
  • Northern Shoveler - Spatula clypeata
  • Gadwall - Mareca strepera, formerly Anas strepera
  • Eurasian Wigeon - Mareca penelope, formerly Anas penelope
  • Mallard - Anas platyrhynchos
  • Eurasian Teal - Anas crecca
  • Yellow-billed Teal (previously known as the Speckled Teal) - Anas flavirostris
  • Green-winged Teal - Anas carolinensis
  • White-cheeked Pintail - Anas bahamensis
  • Yellow-billed Pintail - Anas georgica
  • Northern Pintail - Anas acuta

Footnote :
It must be remembered that all of this series of listings for certain groups of species started with the notes taken while trying to obtain a basic layman’s understanding of the current ‘bird orders’. As stated elsewhere, I have no background knowledge or any authority to produce this sort of information. It is here purely as a personal reference document to assist the cataloguing and correct captioning of my photos.

Main sources of information :
“Wildfowl of Europe, Asia and North America” - Helm Identification Guide by Sébastien Reeber (2015)
“Britain’s Birds” - WILDGuides by various authors (2016)

“Taxonomy in Flux - TiF Checklist” (

Related information : ‘understanding bird orders and families’ and ‘understanding taxonomy listings’

Issue : 6 (April 18) - (originated Jan.17)