Help me to identify these duck species
Please could you identify these birds? The pics were taken at Titchfield Haven. Heather Bint, via email
QWhat we have here are some lovely examples of the variety of ducks we get here in the UK. We’re glad you managed to get photos of the male birds, as female ducks can be tricky to tell apart at a distance. The pair with the more colourful male are Shovelers, a fairly common and widespread duck in the UK (around 1,000 breeding pairs, and 18,000 wintering birds), but usually seen in pairs rather than in large flocks, and sometimes confused with the Mallard, especially at distance. The main clues are that
Ahuge bill, and front-heavy look, along with the male’s dark green head, white breast and red-brown flanks. The other picture shows a pair of Gadwall (up to 1,700 breeding pairs, and 25,000 wintering birds), easy to lose in a group of female Mallards. Slightly smaller than a Mallard, the main clue to a male Gadwall is a small white square on the wing, known as a ‘speculum’, but, as on your photo, this isn’t always visible. However, the grey body colouring taken with that brown head, along with the black rear quarters and the black bill, are also good field marks. As for the female, although looking very like a Mallard, that whitish throat and pale bill are enough to separate the two species.