American Wigeon

Associated Smithsonian Expert: Gary R. Graves, Ph.D.

Dr. Gary Graves had an early childhood fascination with birds that eventually led him to his role as curator of birds at the National Museum of Natural History.

Photo by Don Hurlburt, Smithsonian Institution

Dr. Gary Graves is a research zoologist and curator of birds at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History where his research focuses on the ecology, biogeography, and evolution of birds. His early childhood fascination with birds led to graduate studies at Louisiana State University and Florida State University: "I am unapologetically curious about natural history and the ways that natural history observations catalyze important ecological and evolutionary discoveries." His dissertation work focused on speciation of birds in the Andes Mountains of Peru. He has also conducted fieldwork in Brazil, Ecuador, Panama, Colombia, Polynesia, Canada, and in more than half the states in the USA. His current research efforts are split between the analysis of complex data sets based on the collective resources of the World's great museums and conducting field research in Jamaica, the great forests of the eastern USA, and in the Sonoran Desert.

Meet our associated expert

This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws.
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Swan Goose (Anser cygnoides) feeding on land
Courtesy of 4028mdk09, via Wikimedia Commons, CC-BY-SA

VIDEO LIBRARY

About Waterfowl (Order Anseriformes): Feeding

Waterfowl (ducks, geese, and swans) get their name from their tendency to stay in or near water. Their feathers are densely packed and waterproof, streamlining and insulating them for aquatic life. Nearly all waterfowl feed in the water, on aquatic grasses, seeds, roots, insects, mollusks, crustaceans, and/or small fish. Their webbed front toes help them paddle around looking for food. Typically, waterfowl have long necks and flattened bills with spiny tongues to grasp slippery food. Different species of waterfowl have different feeding techniques related to their diets. Mollusk-eaters use strong bills to yank mollusks off rocks, while fish-eaters have long, pointy bills for catching fish. In dabbling ducks, water is sucked in at the front of the bill, then pushed out the sides by a fleshy tongue. Hard, filter plates (lamellae) along the sides of the bill trap food like a sieve. Waterfowl often feed in flocks, making chattering sounds.