Cinnamon Teal (Anas cyanoptera)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Cinnamon Teal (Anas cyanoptera) is easily distinguished by its plumage, and the males and females can by determined by their coloring. Males have a cinnamon-red coloring over their belly, flanks, head and neck. Their backs are predominantly dark brown, with long bills and red eyes. The females have brown eyes, gray bills, and pale coloring over their heads. Their body plumage is somewhat mottled with browns and a dark back. They also have a light blue patch of plumage on the upper part of their wings. There is also a distinctive pale ring around their eyes. Juvenile males have a similar coloring to the females.

These dabbling ducks, are commonly found in western North America, including areas of California, Texas and Mexico. The Cinnamon Teals are always found in small flocks with female and male pairs. Flocks will generally frequent lakes, streams, small rivers and ponds. They need the water areas to have reeds or plants round the edges, as they feed in shallow waters and live off seeds, plants and on the odd occasion, insects. Cinnamon teals are extremely comfortable on the water, and can dive beneath the surface to find food and can also take off from the water, with quite astounding speed.

During the breeding period, females will find a suitable partner and swim in front of him. To attract the attention of the females, males will preen themselves to perfection and take quick flights to impress her. The female Cinnamon Teal takes care of building the nest, and uses plant stems, grass and other plant materials for construction. The nest is built with a tunnel that leads to it through the plants as she constructs her nest under reeds and plants to obstruct it from view. She will lay between nine to twelve eggs, and takes care of the three week incubation period. The chicks hatch already covered in down, which enables them to leave the nest within 34 hours of hatching. The female Cinnamon Teal will remain with her chicks until they fledge her protection, at the age of approximately one and half months.

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is a dabbling duck that is between 15 to 16 inches in length and has a wingspan of approximately 36 inches. The male Mallard has a green head, a very distinctive white ring around his neck that separates the green plumage from the chestnut colored breast and gray back. The flanks and upper wing coverts are gray in color, black under their tail and the tail is white. Wing linings are generally silver-white, but the Mallard does alternate in plumage during the fall and early summer months. Females have orange bills and the males have yellow bills. She also has a brown face, dark cap and tan and mottled brown plumage coloring.

This dabbling duck is the most commonly found duck across Europe and North America. Unfortunately, they are also the most hunted ducks, and therefore, the conservation authorities keep monitoring the population numbers and the species. The Mallard can also be sighted in other areas and countries, as many of these areas have introduced the Mallard into their regions, wherever they are not naturally located. They are commonly seen in parks, wetlands and other watery areas.

The Mallard is an omnivore, which means that it will eat basically anything, including wheat, barley, seeds, berries, insects, tadpoles, small fish and even freshwater snails. Being a dabbling duck, they do not dive under water to feed, but will dip their heads. During the mating season, the Mallard males will give elaborate displays on the water before copulation. Usually, the male will only mate with one partner, but it is also common to see the male chase a single female and force copulation. Displays and partner finding can be seen throughout the winter months, while breeding season is only in spring. The partnership is short lived, as the males will leave the female as soon as they start laying eggs and form a group with the other males. The female lays her eggs at intervals, and can lay between 9 to 13 eggs. She will only start incubation after she has laid her last eggs. The incubation period is 27 to 28 days, and the ducklings all hatch within a day. They are then led to water, where the female will take care of them.

Gadwall (Anas strepera)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Anas strepera or as it is commonly known, the Gadwall, is a common and widespread duck of the Anatidae family. It is basically a grey-coloured dabbling duck with a black rear end. When you look more closely at the grey colouring you will notice that it is made up of delicate speckling and barring. When it flies is shows a distinct white wing patch and is just a little smaller then a mallard.

In non-breeding times the beautifully patterned drake begins to look more like its female counterpart who is light brown in colouring. The Gadwall has a total wingspan of 78 to 90 cm and is 46 to 56 cm long. It can be found in the United Kingdom where it nests in small numbers. Interesting it is one of the species listed in the ‘Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds’ (AEWA).

These ducks live preferably in open wetlands, such as wet grasslands, gravel pits and in slow-flowing rivers where there are islands of vegetation. Their breeding habitats are similar and can be found in large reservoirs and estuaries. If you want to find any breeding gadwalls look in the shallow edges of gravel pits and lakes near any vegetation. You will find them mainly in the Midlands and southeast part of England, eastern Northern Ireland and southeast of Ireland, eastern central Scotland and southeast Wales.

They mainly eat leaves, seeds and the stems of the water plants found near their habitat. They feed by dabbling for plant food under the water by ducking under with their head submerged. The Gadwall on a whole is a quiet species; the female makes a rasping croak and has a ‘quack’ similar to a mallard, whereas the male has a hoarse whistling call.

The Gadwall will nest on the ground, quite away from the waters edge. Most dabbling ducks are very social and form large groups but the Gadwall is not as gregarious outside the breeding season and will only form small flocks. The juvenile birds are first fed insects and then later mollusks will also be added to their normal eating habits during the nesting season.