Monday, December 05, 2011

Dabbling Ducks - Genus Anas - No. 1

Last year in December, I did a series of quizzes on LBJs or Little Brown Jobs (Quiz 1 link).

For this year’s winter series, I will focus on Dabbling Ducks - Genus Anas.  I have had a number of good opportunities in the Spring and last Fall for photographing the most common of these ducks.

The dabblers are some of our most familiar ducks, and most familiar birds. They are denizens of inland marshes and ponds, which is why they are known at “puddle ducks.” They may also frequent parks, feed in fields, and winter in protected coastal waters. They feed by dabbling at the water’s surface or by bottoms-up, heads down.

The drakes are among the most handsome and dashing gentlemen in the avian world. The hens - not so much so. Basically, the hens all look alike, although a part of this series will be an exercise in learning to identify the hens - an exercise which I need to do for my benefit, and which will hopefully be of interest to patient readers.

I begin with three of the most handsome dabbling ducks. Well, the drakes are handsome anyway.

The Green-winged Teal is the smallest dabbling duck - about 14 inches in length. Duck watching with binoculars or a scope tends to distort our comparative size perception. I remember one time walking on a wetlands boardwalk and being almost on top of Green-winged Teals. I was struck by how small these birds are.

Green-winged Teal - drake. (Florida, late February)
Green-winged Teal - drake & hen. (Florida, late February)
The Northern Pintail is just plain handsome. Its name comes from the long narrow pintail feathers. Like many ducks, it is flightless during its late summer molt. Observationally, the last feathers to be replaces are those pintail feathers. In late October, the drakes are elegantly attired, but missing their pintails.

Northern Pintail - drake. (New Jersey, late October)
The previous photo was taken in late October at Forsyth NWR. The next photo was also taken at Forsyth, this time in late March. The pintail feathers are evident, as is the dabbling method of feeding.

Northern Pintail - drake. (New Jersey, late March)
Northern Pintail - drake & hen. (New Jersey, late October)
The white crown of the American Widgeon gave this duck its folkname, “Baldpate.” This is a dabbling duck that likes to graze on land. It also spends time in deeper water than most dabblers, getting much of it food with thievery from coots and divers.

American Widgeon - drake. Florida, late February
American Widgeon - drake & hen. New Jersey, late October

Good Birding!


Laurence Butler said...

Nice work; great Wigeon photos!

Jen Sanford said...

Beautiful photos... Will you be doing dabbler quizzes? Those LBJ ones drove me nuts (in a good way)!

Dan Huber said...

very nice post and wonderful photos Chris. You captured the colors wonderfully


i doser hand of god said...

Each single picture is so real that they need no words for their description. The picture speaks itself! Great work indeed!


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