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Feb 27

Ducks in Winter

Posted on February 27, 2018 at 10:40 AM by Alicia Doran

by Alicia Vermilye, JCOS Park Ranger

You don’t always have to start with field markings, specific details of plumage, to identify ducks. Observing a ducks’ behavior can be one of the first steps to help with identification. How is the duck feeding? Does it have its head and neck submerged or is it diving underwater?

Dabbler vs Diver

Dabbler ducks tip over in the water (like they are mooning you) with their head and neck submerged to feed on aquatic vegetation and insects.

Diver ducks plunge beneath the water surface in search of fish, crustaceans, and aquatic plants.

• Dabbler ducks you may see this time of year: mallard, American wigeon, gadwall, northern pintail, northern shoveler, & green-wing teal.

• Diver ducks you may see this time of the year: common goldeneye, common & red-breasted merganser, ring-necked duck, lesser scaup and one of my favorites, the bufflehead.

The differences between dabblers and divers is helpful to identify winter ducks but like many rules we try applying to nature, there are exceptions. Sometimes you will see a dabbler duck dive to feed or escape a predator. With practice, these irregularities won’t throw you off too much.
Crown Hill Park offers easily accessible opportunities to view a wonderful variety of winter ducks. So grab your binoculars, birding book, a warm drink, and hit the trail!

Happy Birding!