Dabbling ducks

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Dabbling ducks feed mainly on vegetation by swimming and upending in water or by grazing on land. The most familar of these is the mallard, occupying every type of wetland from town pond to rural stream and estuary.

Other dabbling ducks breeding in Essex, but in smaller numbers, include shoveler, unmistakable with its flattened spoon-like bill and teal, our smallest duck, males easily recognisable with their cinnamon head and almost fluorescent green eye stripe, and the rather nondescript-looking gadwall.

Dabbling ducks only seen in winter or on migration include wigeon and pintail, the male unmistakable with its long pointed tail.

One species passes through Essex on migration from Africa to its breeding grounds in Scandinavia and occasionally stays to breed. This is the garganey, an attractive duck not much bigger than the teal and among the rarest of Britain's breeding birds.

© Alan Williams