Friday, December 09, 2011

Dabbling Ducks - Genus Anas - No. 2

Continuing on the Dabbling Duck (“puddle duck”) series (Genus Anas)

The Northern Shoveler - the large shovel-like beak accounts for its name, but this huge spatula is really used to strain food from the muddy pond soup. One winter in Arizona I watched a flock of 20+ shovelers swimming in a compact circle with their beaks barely submerged as they stirred up the waters and strained out food. At a distance, the green head sometimes leads to a hasty “Mallard” ID, but the bill is black (yellow on the Mallard). The rusty red side on the drake is a give away field mark. The late October drake has not completed his molt, so the side appears a bit ragged.

Northern Shoveler - drake. (New Jersey - late October)
The drake in the next photo is doing the characteristic “bottoms-up” feeding of the dabbler. His flanks appear “neater” than the previous drake. The hen has the black bill often seen on the female during the fall. I also have a photo of a early November hen with a orange bill, but you will have to keep coming back to see it.

Norther Shoveler - dabbling drake with hen. (New Jersey - early November)
The white crescent on the face of the drake Blue-winged Teal is diagnostic. Less apparent when the bird is swimming in the pond is the blue wing. The blue upperwing coverts are seen when the bird takes flight, or when it is bathing and preening, as in the following photo, and you are fortunate enough to be close at hand.

Blue-winged Teal - drake. (Florida - late February)
Blue-winged Teal - drake & hen. (Florida, late February)
I suppose many birders will consider the Gadwall to be a drab duck, but to my eye the drake is an elegant gentleman. As the three photos show, the drake gives different pictures in different circumstances, but the black rear end is consistent and is the field mark I look for.

Gadwall - drake. (Massachusetts coast, mid-January)
Gadwall - drake. (New Jersey - early November)
Gadwall - drake & hen. (New Jersey - early November)

Good Birding!

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


eileeninmd said...

Wonderful captures of the ducks. They are all beautiful and great closeups.

Dan Huber said...

very nice informative post and fantastic photos Chris.


Laurence Butler said...

Northern Shovelers are my favorite; they crack me up. You've got some great photos here, particularly of the Teal, which can be very touchy subjects.
Great work, thanks for sharing your awesome autumn sightings.

Wilma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wilma said...

Beautiful (and instructive) photos, Chris. I especially like the blue-winged teal.



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