Birds by Name – D
Australian Wood Duck
The Australian Wood Duck, Chenonetta jubata, is classed as a dabbling duck and is found throughout much of Australia and Tasmania. There is apparently some debate as to whether this duck belongs in the Anatinae (dabbling duck) or Todornnae (shelduck) sub-family. As it generally ‘dabbles’ in shallow water, sounds like it should be Anatinae.
The male is grey with a dark brown head and mottled breast. The female has white stripes above and below the eye and mottled underparts. It has a wingspan of up to 51 centimetres, making it look more like a small goose.
Subfamily: Anatinae or Tadorninae
Species: C. jubata
Chinese Spot-billed Duck
The Ferruginous Duck, Aythya nyroca, is a rich mahogany red dabbling duck which is in decline throughout Europe. The males have white eyes and a greyish bill with a black tip. They also have a patch of white at the back under the tail which helps distinguish them from the fairly similar Tufted duck.
Their breeding habitat is marshes and lakes with a metre or more water depth in southern and eastern Europe and southern and western Asia. They often winter farther south and into north Africa.
They eat aquatic plants supplemented with a few molluscs, aquatic insects and small fish.
Species: A. nyroca
The Gadwall, Anas strepera, is a grey-coloured dabbling duck belonging to the family Anatidae and breeds in northern Europe, Asia and central North America. It is usually found near reservoirs, gravel pits and lakes where there is abundant vegetation.
The Gadwall, slightly smaller than a Mallard, grows up to 56 centimetres in length and can have a wingspan of up to 90 centimetres.
The male is patterned grey with a distinct black rear end, chestnut brown wings with a white patch. The slightly smaller female is light brown, a bit like a female Mallard, with a white belly.
The Gadwall eats leaves, seeds and other vegetation.
Species: A. strepera
The Goosander, Mergus merganser, or Common Merganser is a large, shy diving duck with a long serrated hooked bill for grasping fish and is found near rivers and lakes of forested areas of Europe, northern and central Asia, and North America. It nests in holes in trees.
The Goosander grows to between 58 and 72 centimetres in length with a wingspan of between 78 and 97 centimetres. Adult males in breeding plumage have a white with a bit of a salmon-pink tinge, a black head with a green gloss, grey rump and tail. Females, and males in non-breeding plumage, are mainly grey, with a reddish-brown head, white chin, and white secondary feathers on the wing. Juveniles of both sexes are similar to adult females but also have a short black-edged white stripe between the eye and bill.
They eat fish, fish and more fish.
Species: M. merganser
The Mallard or Wild Duck, Anas platyrhynchos, is a dabbling duck found throughout the world and has even been introduced to New Zealand and Australia. In addition, the Mallard is the ancestor of almost all of the varieties of domestic ducks, others being descended from the Muscovy Duck and American Black Duck.
The Mallard has a long body and a long and broad bill. The male has a dark green head, a yellow bill, is mainly purple-brown on the breast and grey on the body. The female is mainly brown with an orange bill.
However, Mallards have a tendency to interbreed with other species of the genus Anas which means you can get a variety of sizes and colourings, making identification a little more difficult on occasion.
Species: A. platyrhynchos
The Mandarin Duck, Aix galericulata, is an easlily recognisable (for a change) medium-sized perching duck in the Anatidae family and is closely related to the North American Wood Duck. It grows to between 41 and 49 centimetres in length and has a wingspan of between 65 and 75 centimetres.
The male has a red bill, large white crescent above the eye and a reddish face. The breast is purple with two vertical white bars and the flanks are ruddy coloured with what look like two orange sails at the back.
The female is similar to female Wood Duck and has a white eye-ring and stripe running back from the eye. It is is paler or duller coloured below with a small white flank stripe and a pale tip to its bill.
Originally from Asia, particularly China, Japan and Russia, it became popular as an ornamental duck. In the process, many escaped and large feral populations have thrived in many areas.
Species: A. galericulata
Pacific Black Duck
The Pacific Black Duck, Anas superciliosa, is a dabbling duck found in much of Indonesia, New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand and on many islands in the south-western Pacific.
The Pacific Black Duck grows up to around 60 centimetres in length. It has a dark body, a pale greyish neck, a dark crown and stripes, or flashes, on its face.
Often sharing the same territory as Mallards, there has been a lot of cross-breeding or hybridisation, as is often the case when Mallards are about.
Species: A. superciliosa
Greater White-cheeked Pintail
The Pochard, Aythya ferina, is a medium-sized diving duck found in lakes and marshes with a water depth in excess of one metre.
The adult male has a long dark bill with a grey band, a red head and neck, a black breast, red eyes and a grey back. The adult female is a bit less distinctive with a brown head and body and a narrower grey band on the bill. However, the triangular shape of the head makes them stand out from the crowd.
Pochards are migratory and generally winter in the south and west of Europe. They feed mainly by diving or dabbling, eating aquatic plants, molluscs, aquatic insects and small fish.
Species: A. ferina
The Australian Shelduck, Tadorna tadornoides, is a large duck, very goose-like, belonging to the bird family Anatidae.
The male is predominantly dark, has a chestnut brown breast, white neck collar and dark green head. The female is very similar, but has white around the eyes.
The Australian Shelduck breeds in southern Australia and Tasmania and moves further north during the winter. It is usually found in quite open areas and makes its nest in tree holes, holes in banks and other similar places.
Species: T. tadornoides
The Common Shelduck, Tadorna tadorna, is a colourful waterfowl in the genus Tadorna and is widespread and common throughout Eurasia.
It is a big, colourful duck, its size being in between that of most other ducks and the larger geese. Both sexes have a dark green head and neck, a chestnut belly stripe and a red bill.
The Shelduck has a loud goosey-like ‘honk’ rather than a duck-like ‘quack’.
It eats invertebrates, small shellfish and aquatic snails.
Species: T. tadorna
Black-backed Radjah Shelduck
The Ruddy Shelduck is becoming quite rare in Spain so it was nice to find this one on the lake in Parque de la Paloma in Benalmádena. This one, I believe, is a female.
The Ruddy Shelduck, Tadorna ferruginea, is a member of the duck, goose and swan family Anatidae and is migratory, wintering in India and other parts of Asia.
Species: T. ferruginea
South African Shelduck
The South African Shelduck or Cape Shelduck, Tadorna cana, is quite a large duck, growing to about 64 centimetres in length. The male has a grey head. the female has a white face and black crown, nape and sides of the neck, making them quite easy to tell apart.
The South African Shelduck breeds in southern Africa and during the southern winter it generally migrates to the north-east.
Species: T. cana
The Australasian Shoveler, Anas rhynchotis, is a dabbling duck in the genus Anas and are usually found in swampy areas of Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. It grows to between 46 and 53 centimetres in length.
The male has a blue-grey head with a vertical white strip in front of the eyes.
The female is a bit duller in many ways, and is more different shades of brown and no eye stripe.
Species: A. rhynchotis
South African Yellow-billed Duck
The Eurasian Teal, Common Teal or just plain Teal, Anas crecca, is a small dabbling duck which breeds in temperate Eurasia and migrates south in winter.
Males have a chestnut coloured head with broad green eye-patches, a spotted chest, grey flanks and a black edged yellow tail. Females are a mottled brown. In flight, both sexes have bright green wing patches.
It is one of the smallest of the dabbling ducks.
Teal eat small invertebrates and seeds.
Species: A. crecca
Greater Brazilian Teal
Black-bellied Whistling Duck
Wandering Whistling Duck
West Indian Whistling Duck
White-faced Whistling Duck
The Wigeon is a small to medium-sized dabbling duck in the genus Anas. It has a round head and small bill. The head and neck of the male are chestnut brown, the forehead is yellow, the breast is pinky and the body is grey. In flight they show white bellies and males have a large white wing patch.
Wigeons are quite happy to hybridise, as are Mallards, so watch out for some interesting crosses.
Wigeons eat various sorts of aquatic plants, roots and grasses.
The Wood Duck or Carolina Duck, Aix sponsa, is a colourfiul, a medium-sized perching duck from North America. Adult males are between 47 and 54 centimetres long and have a wingspan of between 66 and 73 centimetres.
As might be noted from the colouring, it shares its genes with the Asian Mandarin Duck, Aix galericulata. The females are not as colourful as the males.
Wood Ducks nest in trees and when the ducklings leave the nest, they have reportedly been known to jump from a height of over 80 metres without injuring themselves. The parents try to build their nests in trees over water to give the little ones a soft(ish) landing.
Wood Ducks mainly eat berries, acorns, and seeds, but will also eat insects.
Species: A. sponsa
The Dunlin, Calidris alpina, is a small migratory wader, sometimes forming large flocks on coastal mudflats or sandy beaches. It has a slightly down-curved bill and a distinctive black belly patch in breeding plumage.
Juveniles are brown above with two whitish ‘V’ shapes on the back and usually have black marks on the flanks or belly and displasy a strong white wingbar in flight.
Dunlins eat insects, snails and worms.
Species: C. alpina
The Dunnock, Prunella modularis, is a small, Robin-sized passerine bird of the Accentor family and is found throughout temperate Europe.
It is a bird of woodland, shrub and gardens and builds a neat nest low in a bush or conifer, laying 3-5 unspotted blue eggs.
The Dunnock grows to about 14 cm in length, has a brownish underneath and a fine pointed bill. Adults have a grey head and the sexes are fairly similarly coloured.
Dunnocks eat insects, spiders, worms and seeds which means that those in the colder areas of their range have to migrate.
Species: P. modularis