Dabbling Ducks (Anas)
The sixteen Anas species on the American Birding Association's check list, makes them the most diverse of the North American Anatidae genera.
Taking into account that only eleven Anas species count as native breeding species does little to put a dent into the genera's relative diversity. Only the seven diving ducks of the Aythya genus come close to matching Anas diversity.
Perhaps the best known of the Anas, the green headed Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) inhabit ponds and lakes from coast to coast.
During non-breeding season, males and females share most physical characteristics. Foot color helps differentiate them, with males usually possessing brighter orange webbed feet.
Hardy ducks, they often breed with other species, especially domestic ducks.
Many mallards live year round in one territory. Others migrate to Canada during breeding season and winter in the United States.
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Types of Birds
Types of Ducks
The picture on the right highlights some of the physical features of four additional Anas species.
The picture highlights the duck's bright yellow bill. Female mallard bills are often duller with dark patches. The tail feathers of female mallards also show more white.
Their limited range, and the tendency toward mallard interbreeding are currently noted as causes of concern for Mottled Duck population stability.
The American Black Duck (Anas rubripes) makes its home in eastern North America.
Unlike many other ducks, males and females share similar physical features, especially the dark brown or black looking body.
The yellow bill and orange webbed feet are field identification marks they share with mallards. The female bill and foot color may be a bit paler. Interbreeding between the species occurs in areas where mallards and black duck populations overlap.
Significant population declines in the 1980s led to the Canadian and United States governments instituting hunting regulations as a population management tool.
The Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca), a highly migratory duck, breeds in the north winters in the south, with a small Northwest year round population.
Shallow ponds and streams in wooded areas, shallow mudflats around coastal areas all provide inviting habitat.
Females display a distinct green wing stripe. Males display distinct green facial stripes.
The Cinnamon Teal (Anas cyanoptera) lives almost exclusively west of the Mississippi River, breeding along the West Coast and wintering in Mexico.
The picture shows a male and female pair. The cinnamon colored duck is the male.
Two different wigeon species, the Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope) and the American Wigeon (Anas americana), share breeding space in North America.
The American Wigeon (Anas americana), the more common of the two, covers the continent, with the bulk of the population found in the West.
Wigeons produce distinct vocal sounds. Rather than quacking like the stereotypical duck, they make a noise that sound like a squeak toy. Hearing is believing.
Like most dabbling ducks, wigeons eat grains, grasses and some aquatic insects.
Small populations of Eurasian Wigeons (Anas penelope) can be found wintering along the Northern Atlantic and Pacific coastal areas of North America.
The Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) makes its mark on the duck world with an exceptionally long tail.
Another Arctic breeding species, Northern Pintails primarily winter in southern areas of the United States.
Like most dabbling ducks, pintails consume insects, grasses and grains.
The Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata) makes more of a presence in western than eastern North America.
Beginning birders could easily mistake the shoveler for the mallard. Males of both species have green heads. Shovelers are distinguished by an extra large and wide black bill.
Breeding populations exist in most areas of the Northern Hemisphere.
A portion of the United States population, for example, is known to winter as far south as Mexico and northern South America.
Unlike other dabbling ducks that commonly dip their heads and lift their tails to forage for food in shallow water areas, shovelers use their bills to shovel or skim food from the top of the water.
© 2002-2013 Patricia A. Michaels