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Are Swans Ducks? The Differences and Similarities Between Them

Are Swans Ducks? The Differences and Similarities Between Them

If you’ve ever lived near a pond, river or stream, then you’ve most probably seen waterfowl creatures swimming around. Waterfowl creatures are those creatures that are found near water. In this particular case, I’m talking about swans and ducks. 

People generally consider swans and ducks the same. If not, then they definitely think that ducks are some other breeds of the swan. Whether you’re here because I sparked your attention or you’re here because you didn’t know the difference between them, you’ll find what you’re looking for here.

Are Swans Ducks?

No, swans are not ducks. They both are different birds belonging to the same family Anatidae. The Anatidae consists of water body animals like swans, geese and ducks.

Similarities and Differences

Before I list off all the differences and similarities between the two in great detail, let me give you a brief overview of what they have and do not have in common.

FamilyAnatidae familyAnatidae family
SizeLargest birds in Anatidae familySmall birds in the Anatidae family, when compared to swans
HabitatFound in marshes, lakes and other wetlandsFound in marshes, oceans, ponds and other wetlands
NeckLong graceful neckShort neck
FeetWebbed feetWebbed feet
BillsLong and thick billsLong, wide and flat bills
Newborn’s BehaviorFollow the concept of imprintingFollow the concept of imprinting
TravellingTravel in flocksTravel in flocks

The Similarities

Ducks and swans have some similarities but not too much to mistake between the two. The following are the similarities between the two.

Biological Family

Ducks and swans, as mentioned before, both belong to the biological family Anatidae. Species in the Anatidae are found all over the world except in Antarctica. Swans and ducks are put in this category because of the fact that they are waterfowl animals who have webbed feet, strong wings and soft and sensitive bills. 


There might be some difference between the habitat of ducks and swans, but both require habitats that have water. The common habitat between the two is marshlands. You will find both of them swimming around with their flock in this habitat.


Ducks and swans both have webbed feet. It can be considered one of the main traits of the Anatidae family. The webbed feet help them to paddle and dive in the water. 

How do webbed feet help swans and ducks to swim?

These waterfowl creatures push downward and backwards with the help of their legs and feet. This downward motion causes the webbing between their feet to spread out and creates more surface area, thus pushing more water.

Newborn’s Behavior

Ducklings and cygnets both are known for their imprinting behaviors. The first story of a newborn swan’s and duck’s life is known as a ‘sensitive period’. Imprinting is like a metaphorical stamp on a youngling’s brain. 

Have you ever seen Tom and Jerry? I remember there was this one episode where the young duckling imprints on Tom and considers him its parent. 

The first thing a youngling sees and hears is what it imprints on and follows around. 

Imprinting can be a major problem. If the parent is not what the first thing a youngling sees and hears, it can imprint on another object that they see moving around them at that time.


Swans and ducks are both known to travel in flocks. A flock of swans are known as bevvy or wedge, and a flock of ducks are known as a raft. 

For, swans flocking is necessary for social reasons. In order to find a mate, they forage in groups in order to find swans to mate with and start their courtship routine. But flocking is not always easy for swans. Some can be more aggressive than others. It can lead to fights which can cause problems for the flock.

Other than the breeding seasons, ducks flock together for the remaining of the year. They forage and roost together in groups. Flocking in groups is beneficial for them in order to avoid predators. Flocks of ducks are detectable, but the number of ducks in a flock can confuse and overwhelm the predators. 

The Dissimilarities

Following are the similarities between ducks and swans:


Swans are known as the biggest birds in the Anatidae family, and ducks are considered the second biggest birds. 

They are heavy-bodied and can weigh between 15 to 17 kilograms. Whereas ducks do not weigh that much and are small animals. It is one of the main characters through which you can distinguish between the two.


It is another one of the prominent characters through which you can distinguish between the two. 

A swan’s neck is long and graceful, whereas a duck has a shorter neck. 


The beaks are called the bills. A duck’s bill is long, wide and flat, having notched along the edges called lamellae. 

Swans have long and thick bills. The bills of swans play an important part during courtship. During the process of courtship, the two swans together dip their bills in water. Different breeds of swans have different types of bills. Some have an all-black bill, and some have a black bill with a yellow base.

Ducks and swans use their bills to search for food. That’s why the edges of the bill are soft, as they often find the food by touching or feeling it. They have nails at the end of their bills which helps them to move the food items around by hooking on to them. 

Final Verdict

I guess, by now, you can easily distinguish between swans and ducks. The most prominent distinguishing characters are the size and their necks. Some people might say that the color of their fur is also another way which you can use to distinguish between the two. Other differences between the two are their diets and their behaviors. But they might not be that noticeable to most people. 

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