The diving ducks, commonly called pochards or scaups, are a category of duck which feed by diving beneath the surface of the water. They are part of the diverse and very large Anatidae family that includes ducks, geese, and swans.
The diving ducks are placed in a distinct subfamily, Aythyinae. While morphologically close to the dabbling ducks, there are nonetheless some pronounced differences such as in the structure of the trachea. mtDNA cytochrome b and NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 sequence data indicate that the dabbling and diving ducks are fairly distant from each other, the outward similarities being due to convergent evolution. Alternatively, the diving ducks are placed as a tribe Aythyini in a subfamily Anatidae which would encompass all duck-like birds except the whistling-ducks. The seaducks commonly found in coastal areas, such as the Long-tailed Duck (formerly known in the US as Oldsquaw), scoters, goldeneyes, mergansers, bufflehead and eiders, are also sometimes colloquially referred to in North America as diving ducks because they also feed by diving; their subfamily (Merginae) is a very distinct one however.
Although the group is cosmopolitan, most members are native to the northern hemisphere, and it includes several of the most familiar northern hemisphere ducks.
This group of ducks is so named because its members feed mainly by diving, although in fact the Netta species are reluctant to dive, and feed more like dabbling ducks.
These are gregarious ducks, mainly found on fresh water or on estuaries, though the Greater Scaup becomes marine during the northern winter. They are strong fliers; their broad, blunt-tipped wings require faster wing-beats than those of many ducks and they take off with some difficulty. Northern species tend to be migratory; southern species do not migrate though the Hardhead travels long distances on an irregular basis in response to rainfall. Diving ducks do not walk as well on land as the dabbling ducks; their legs tend to be placed further back on their bodies to help propel them when underwater.