EVERY WEEK IN 2017 WE WILL HAVE NEW SUGGESTIONS FOR A DIFFERENT GROUP OF BIRDS TO LOOK FOR TO HELP DEVELOP YOUR #MY200BIRDYEAR LIST.
This week, it is dabbling ducks
This week we look at the ducks in the genus Anas which feed on the surface by ‘dabbling’, just under by ‘up-ending’ or graze out of water. The point is they don’t dive (except in bathing and sometimes during courtship). The males are colourful and distinctive, the females camouflaged streaky brown (and best separated by structure). Most species have a colourful area of iridescent plumage on the trailing edge of the inner wing (the Secondary feathers) called the speculum, which can be important in ID. Unfortunately all drakes go into what is known as eclipse plumage in summer, where they moult to resemble females, so as not to be too prominent while moulting the wing feathers (which hampers their flight and makes them vulnerable to predation).
The standard duck. This is the bird from which domestic ducks derive, hence why some duck pond ducks are rather odd looking in colour (and sometimes shape). Males are quite large and surprisingly handsome, with bottle green heads a white neck ring, dark red-brown chest and curly black ‘tail’ feathers. The body is mainly grey and the speculum purple-blue with white borders (also in female).
Shape alone is enough to identify the handsome, but essentially weird, short-necked Shoveler. Both ducks and drakes have huge bills used for filtering small food from the water’s surface. Males have Mallard-green heads and black bills, white breasts and rich chestnut flanks, otherwise beign black and white. The forewing is pale blue and the speculum green. Brown females have a greyforewing.
Slightly smaller than a Mallard, the drake Gadwall looks grey from any distance (with a black rear end and white speculum). Close up, his plumage is finely vermiculated. Females are best told from Mallard ducks b their white speculum (which can show even in the folded wing) and structure.
The handsome drake Wigeon has a pale grey body, black rear end and brick red head with a cream forehead and crown. The forewing is white and he speculum green. Of all the dabbling ducks, this is the one most often seen grazing out of water. Both males and females have short, ‘cute’ blue-grey bills with a black tip.
The long-necked gracefuyl Pintail is an elegant bird, the drake having a chocolate brown head, white and grey body and a lvery ong ‘pin tail’. Females are best identified by being similar in structure to the drakes (though lacking the long tail).
Teals are tiny ducks, bt exquisitely handsome. The head is red-brown with a a gthick iridescent green stripe through the eye and cheek, lined with pencil thin yellow. The body is grey (vermiculated) with a white stripe parallel to the water line and a yellow and black rear end.
A scarce summer visitor mainly toe the south-east of England, the ultra shy drake Garganey is not much bigger than a teal. It is brown and grey with a striking whitesupercilium. Females are similar to Duck Teals but have oddly striped faces.
All photos from Alamy