SPECIES TO LOOK OUT FOR
Smaller than mallards, but with a larger bill, the distinctive drakes have a dark green head and rustyorange flanks and belly. As the breeding population departs for warmer climes, their continental cousins will arrive to spend the winter on our reservoirs.
At a distance, a gadwall drake ( below) is unremarkable – grey with a black rear end – but at close quarters the plumage is finely vermiculated. The females, however, look like slim mallards. Most gadwall overwintering in Britain will have come from either Iceland or northern or eastern Europe.
The males of this stocky diving duck have rustyred heads, black breasts, and a pale grey back and flanks, contrasting with the mostly brown females. Overwintering numbers have dropped recently, with only around 38,000 pairs arriving from breeding grounds in northern and eastern Europe and central Russia.
The domed heads of the drake goldeneye appear greenish-black, with a circular white patch in front of that yellow eye. This differs from the chocolate-brown head of the smaller females. While only about 200 pairs breed in Scotland, the population balloons to over 25,000 across the UK in winter.
The black-and-white drakes of this diminutive diving duck are highly memorable and differ from the females – often called ‘redheads’ due to their reddish-brown head plumes. The species doesn't breed here in the UK, and only about 200 make it annually to Britain’s collection of reservoirs.