I have been given a new quest in my pursuit of duckery…or anseriformology, I should say.
A friend of mine has challenged me to post ten facts about ten different species of duck. The gauntlet has been thrown down and, filled with renewed confidence and vigour after my semi-success in terminology, I have accepted this new mission.
So here it is: duck variety number one and accompanying interesting fact.
This is the Fuegian Steamer Duck, also known as the Magellanic Steamer duck. It is one of four varieties in the genus Tachyeres, all of which are to be found in South America.
The ‘interesting fact’ about this particular genus, is that only one of the four varieties can fly – the imaginatively named Flying Steamer Duck. The other three, the Fuegian, White-Headed and Falkland, are all flightless.
This is appears to be quite unusual for ducks. Of the many species out there, only three varieties can’t fly for natural reasons. There are other ducks which are flightless, but this is less to do with evolution than with selective breeding by man.
This is the domestic duck. They are farmed for their meat, down and eggs. The nation with the largest market for the duck breeding industry is China. The domestic duck is the breed on which our stereotype of ‘duck’ is based. Whenever someone thinks of a duck, this is usually the image that is brought to mind. The white feathers and bright orange bill were immortalised by Donald Duck in 1934. This particular breed is descended from the Mallard duck, but some domestic breeds are taken from Muscovy or Rouen ducks.
The main reason that the domestic duck is flightless is that they are bred for meat, and are usually well fed. In many cases their flight muscles are not as developed as other species, because they don’t need to fly far and wide in search of food. The farmers provide for them.
So there you are. The Steamer Duck is a native of South America and three out of four of its kind are flightless. Over the next wee while I shall be adding to this particular post as I find out more information about why Steamers did not evolve the ability to fly, but stand by for Duck Species Two, and an even more interesting fact.