Help me to iden­tify th­ese duck species

Bird Watching (UK) - - Your View -

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.

Gad­walls Shov­el­ers

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