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Duck vs. Loon — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman — Updated on June 8, 2024
A duck is a waterfowl known for its broad flat bill and webbed feet, while a loon is a diving bird with a sharp bill and known for its eerie calls.
Duck vs. Loon — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Duck and Loon

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Key Differences

A Duck is a common waterfowl recognized by its broad flat bill, webbed feet, and typically compact body. In contrast, a Loon is a larger diving bird with a more streamlined body, sharp pointed bill, and legs set far back on its body, optimized for diving and swimming underwater.
Ducks are versatile, found in both freshwater and saltwater environments, including ponds, lakes, rivers, and coastal waters. Loons, predominantly freshwater birds, are often associated with deeper lakes and ponds, especially in northern regions, where they breed.
While Ducks have a varied diet ranging from aquatic plants to small fish and insects, Loons primarily eat fish, catching them during their impressive underwater dives.
One of the characteristic features of Loons is their haunting, eerie calls which echo across northern lakes. Ducks, on the other hand, are more commonly known for their quacking sounds, though their vocal range can be quite varied.
In terms of appearance, many Duck species sport colorful plumages, particularly the males, which they use to attract mates. Loons have a more uniform appearance, typically black and white, especially during the breeding season, with variations in winter.
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Comparison Chart

Body Shape

Compact body with broad, flat bill
Streamlined body with sharp, pointed bill

Habitat

Freshwater and saltwater environments
Predominantly freshwater, deeper lakes

Diet

Varied - aquatic plants, small fish, insects
Primarily fish

Sound

Quacking and other vocalizations
Eerie, haunting calls

Appearance

Often colorful, especially males
Typically black and white, variations in winter

Compare with Definitions

Duck

Duck is the common name for numerous species of waterfowl in the family Anatidae. Ducks are generally smaller and shorter-necked than swans and geese, which are also members of the same family.

Loon

A diving bird known for its haunting calls.
The Loon's call echoed across the lake.

Duck

A waterbird with a broad blunt bill, short legs, webbed feet, and a waddling gait.

Loon

A bird primarily found in freshwater habitats.
We often spot Loons at the northern lakes during summer.

Duck

Birds belonging to the family Anatidae.
We spotted various species of Ducks at the lake.

Loon

Can dive deep to catch fish.
We watched the Loon dive and resurface with a fish.

Duck

A bird often domesticated for its meat and eggs.
The farm had a Duck pen next to the chicken coop.

Loon

Loons (North America) or divers (United Kingdom / Ireland) are a group of aquatic birds found in many parts of North America and northern Eurasia. All living species of loons are members of the genus Gavia, family Gaviidae and order Gaviiformes .

Duck

Can either float on water or dive for food.
The Duck dived under to catch a fish.

Loon

A large diving waterbird with a sleek black or grey head, a straight pointed bill, and short legs set far back under the body; a diver.

Duck

A pure white thin-shelled bivalve mollusc found off the Atlantic coasts of America.

Loon

Possesses a sharp bill and red eyes.
The Loon stared at us with its distinctive red eyes.

Duck

An amphibious transport vehicle
Visitors can board an amphibious duck to explore the city

Loon

Known for its black and white plumage during breeding season.
The Loon looked majestic in its breeding colors.

Duck

A quick lowering of the head.

Loon

A silly or foolish person
If only she weren't such a lovesick loon

Duck

Dear; darling (used as an informal or affectionate form of address, especially among cockneys)
Where've yer been, ducks!
It's time you changed, my duck

Loon

Act in a foolish or desultory way
He decided to loon around London

Duck

A strong linen or cotton fabric, used chiefly for work clothes and sails
Cotton duck

Loon

Any of several fish-eating diving birds of the genus Gavia of northern regions, having a short tail, webbed feet, and a laughlike cry.

Duck

A batsman's score of nought
He was out for a duck

Loon

A person who is foolish or crazy.

Duck

Lower the head or the body quickly to avoid a blow or missile or so as not to be seen
Spectators ducked for cover
He ducked his head and entered

Loon

(slang) A crazy or deranged person; a lunatic.

Duck

Push or plunge (someone) under water, either playfully or as a punishment
Rufus grabbed him from behind to duck him under the surface

Loon

(obsolete) An idler, a lout.

Duck

Refrain from playing a winning card on a particular trick for tactical reasons
Declarer ducked the opening spade lead

Loon

A boy, a lad.

Duck

Any of various wild or domesticated waterbirds of the family Anatidae, characteristically having a broad flat bill, short legs, and webbed feet.

Loon

A harlot; mistress.

Duck

A female duck.

Loon

A simpleton.

Duck

The flesh of a duck used as food.

Loon

An English soldier of an expeditionary army in Ireland.

Duck

(Slang) A person, especially one thought of as peculiar.

Loon

(traffic engineering) A round area of pavement that protrudes from one side of a road to accommodate turning vehicles with a wide turning circle.

Duck

Often ducks (used with a sing. verb) Chiefly British A dear.

Loon

Any of various birds, of the order Gaviiformes, of North America and Europe that dive for fish and have a short tail, webbed feet and a yodeling cry.

Duck

A quick lowering of the head or body.

Loon

A sorry fellow; a worthless person; a rogue.

Duck

A plunge under water.

Loon

Any one of several aquatic, wed-footed, northern birds of the genus Urinator (formerly Colymbus), noted for their expertness in diving and swimming under water. The common loon, or great northern diver (Urinator imber, or Colymbus torquatus), and the red-throated loon or diver (Urinator septentrionalis), are the best known species. See Diver.

Duck

A durable, closely woven heavy cotton or linen fabric.

Loon

A worthless lazy fellow

Duck

Ducks Clothing made of duck, especially white pants.

Loon

Large somewhat primitive fish-eating diving bird of the northern hemisphere having webbed feet placed far back; related to the grebes

Duck

An amphibious military truck used during World War II.

Loon

A person with confused ideas; incapable of serious thought

Duck

A similar vehicle used for civilian purposes, as to evacuate flood victims or for sightseeing tours. In both senses also called DUKW.

Duck

To lower quickly, especially so as to avoid something
Ducked his head as the ball came toward him.

Duck

To evade; dodge
Duck responsibility.
Ducked the reporter's question.

Duck

To push (a person, for example) suddenly under water.

Duck

In bridge, to deliberately play a card that is lower than (an opponent's card).

Duck

To lower the head or body.

Duck

To move swiftly, especially so as to escape being seen
Ducked behind a bush.

Duck

To submerge the head or body briefly in water.

Duck

To evade a responsibility or obligation. Often used with out
Duck out on one's family.

Duck

In bridge, to lose a trick by deliberately playing lower than one's opponent.

Duck

(intransitive) To quickly lower the head or body, often in order to prevent it from being struck by something.
Duck! There's a branch falling off the tree!

Duck

(transitive) To quickly lower (the head or body), often in order to prevent it from being struck by something.

Duck

(transitive) To lower (something) into water; to thrust or plunge under liquid and suddenly withdraw.

Duck

(intransitive) To go under the surface of water and immediately reappear; to plunge one's head into water or other liquid.

Duck

(intransitive) To bow.

Duck

(transitive) To evade doing something.

Duck

(transitive) To lower the volume of (a sound) so that other sounds in the mix can be heard more clearly.

Duck

(intransitive) To enter a place for a short moment.
I'm just going to duck into the loo for a minute, can you hold my bag?

Duck

(caving) A cave passage containing water with low, or no, airspace.

Duck

An aquatic bird of the family Anatidae, having a flat bill and webbed feet.

Duck

Specifically, an adult female duck; contrasted with drake and with duckling.

Duck

(uncountable) The flesh of a duck used as food.

Duck

(cricket) A batsman's score of zero after getting out. (short for duck's egg, since the digit "0" is round like an egg.)

Duck

(slang) A playing card with the rank of two.

Duck

A building intentionally constructed in the shape of an everyday object to which it is related.
A luncheonette in the shape of a coffee cup is particularly conspicuous, as is intended of an architectural duck or folly.

Duck

A marble to be shot at with another marble (the shooter) in children's games.

Duck

(US) A cairn used to mark a trail.

Duck

One of the weights used to hold a spline in place for the purpose of drawing a curve.

Duck

Synonym of lame duck

Duck

(medicine) A long-necked medical urinal for men.

Duck

A faggot; a meatball made from offal.

Duck

A tightly-woven cotton fabric used as sailcloth.

Duck

(in plural) Trousers made of such material.

Duck

A term of endearment; pet; darling.

Duck

(Midlands) Dear, mate (informal way of addressing a friend or stranger).
Ay up duck, ow'a'tha?

Duck

A pet; a darling.

Duck

A linen (or sometimes cotton) fabric, finer and lighter than canvas, - used for the lighter sails of vessels, the sacking of beds, and sometimes for men's clothing.

Duck

The light clothes worn by sailors in hot climates.

Duck

Any bird of the subfamily Anatinæ, family Anatidæ.

Duck

A sudden inclination of the bead or dropping of the person, resembling the motion of a duck in water.
Here be, without duck or nod,Other trippings to be trod.

Duck

To thrust or plunge under water or other liquid and suddenly withdraw.
Adams, after ducking the squire twice or thrice, leaped out of the tub.

Duck

To plunge the head of under water, immediately withdrawing it; as, duck the boy.

Duck

To bow; to bob down; to move quickly with a downward motion.

Duck

To go under the surface of water and immediately reappear; to dive; to plunge the head in water or other liquid; to dip.
In Tiber ducking thrice by break of day.

Duck

To drop the head or person suddenly; to bow.
The learned pateDucks to the golden fool.

Duck

Small wild or domesticated web-footed broad-billed swimming bird usually having a depressed body and short legs

Duck

(cricket) a score of nothing by a batsman

Duck

Flesh of a duck (domestic or wild)

Duck

A heavy cotton fabric of plain weave; used for clothing and tents

Duck

To move (the head or body) quickly downwards or away;
Before he could duck, another stone struck him

Duck

Submerge or plunge suddenly

Duck

Dip into a liquid;
He dipped into the pool

Duck

Avoid or try to avoid fulfilling, answering, or performing (duties, questions, or issues);
He dodged the issue
She skirted the problem
They tend to evade their responsibilities
He evaded the questions skillfully

Duck

A waterfowl with a flat bill and webbed feet.
The Duck waddled towards the pond.

Duck

Known for its distinctive quacking sound.
We heard the Duck before we saw it.

Common Curiosities

Can loons quack like ducks?

No, Loons have distinct eerie calls, different from the quacking of Ducks.

Are all ducks capable of flying?

Most Duck species can fly, but some domesticated breeds have limited flight abilities.

Are ducks and loons related?

Both Ducks and Loons are waterfowl, but they belong to different families.

Why do loons have red eyes?

The red eyes of Loons might aid in underwater vision, but the exact reason remains a subject of speculation.

What's the lifespan of a typical duck?

Depending on the species and environment, a Duck can live anywhere from 5 to 10 years or more.

Do both ducks and loons have webbed feet?

Yes, both Ducks and Loons have webbed feet, aiding them in swimming.

Can you find ducks in the ocean?

Yes, some Duck species are sea ducks and can be found in marine environments.

Are loons considered social birds?

Loons are generally solitary or seen in small family groups, unlike some Ducks which can be quite social.

Can loons walk on land?

Loons can move on land but are more adapted and graceful in water.

Are all ducks good swimmers?

Yes, all Ducks are adapted to swim, though some species are more adept divers than others.

Do loons migrate?

Yes, many Loon species migrate to warmer waters in the winter.

Are ducks found worldwide?

Ducks are versatile and can be found on every continent except Antarctica.

Why are loons' legs positioned far back on their bodies?

The legs of Loons are positioned far back for efficient diving and swimming, though it makes walking on land awkward.

Do ducks have teeth?

Ducks have serrated edges on their bills called 'tomia', not true teeth, to grip food.

How deep can a loon dive?

Some Loon species can dive up to 200 feet or more to catch fish.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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