Birds of Cape Ann: Divers or Dabblers and the Green-winged Teal

Female Green-winged Teal -- ©Kim Smith 2013.Female Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca) 

While filming at Henry’s Pond in Rockport I at first thought I was seeing a pair of pint-sized, or immature female Mallards amongst a mixed flock of full grown Mallards and American Black Ducks. But no, upon closer examination, their behavior was different from that of the much larger Mallards. They stayed together, the two females, foraging for food along the pond’s edge. When one flashed her brilliant emerald green wing, I realized it was no Mallard but the beautiful Green-winged Teal.

Female Green-winged Teal ©Kim Smith 2013Like the chubby little Bufflehead, the Green-winged Teal is similar in size, about 13-15 inches in length.

I find it interesting that, based on their style of foraging, ecologists assemble waterfowl into several groups.“Dabbler” ducks skim food from the surface, or feed in shallow water by tipping forward to submerge their heads (which is exactly what I had observed while filming the petite Green-winged Teal). “Diving” ducks propel themselves underwater with large feet. A few dabblers may dive, but for the most part, dabblers skim.

Dabblers that we see in our region include Green-winged Teal, Mallard, Mottled Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Gadwall, and Northern Shoveler. Diving ducks are the Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Ruddy Duck, Masked Duck, and American Wigeon.

A third category, which includes Buffleheads are called “seaducks.” American Black Duck, Eiders, Scooters, Harlequin Duck, Oldsquaw, Goldeneyes, and Mergansers are encompassed in the seaduck group. Read more about Dabblers vs. Divers here.

Male Mallard, Female Mallard Green -Green-winged Teal ©Kim Smith 2013.

In the above photo of a male and female Mallard in the foreground, and Green-winged teal in the background, you can see how close in color are the feathers of the females of the two species. The wing pattern is subtly different and you can also see the difference in size between the two species.

*   *   *

I have been organizing research and lots of photos for our Birds of Cape Ann series. Upcoming stories will feature songbirds, including Mourning Doves, American Robins, and Northern Cardinals, shorebirds of every size and shape including dabblers, divers, and seaducks, and I’ve planned a post just on bird food to grow in your gardens to attract our fine-feathered friends. As I often remind my readers, “When you plant, they will come!”

Green-Winged Teal, Birding Center, Port Aransas, TexasMale Green-winged Teal image courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Birds of Cape Ann: Buffleheads

12 thoughts on “Birds of Cape Ann: Divers or Dabblers and the Green-winged Teal

  1. Thank you for doing this series on the birds of Cape Ann, we birders appreciate it. There are many different ducks that we will see only in the winter. The males are starting their courtship displays already, that’s a real treat to observe.


    1. Hi Kate, great to hear from you and you are welcome! I would love to get a courtship dance on film–will keep trying. And to see a male Green-winged teal, too–beautiful colors and patterns of their feathers!!!


  2. Excellent love the teal – green very nice! 🙂 Here is a link from the western side – on road runner’s folks had a bunch on the farm and snakes don’t like them as stated in this youtube they go against rattler’s…I have seen them mostly with Western terrestrial garter snakes, bull snakes etc most often they like to walk across barns and roofs too! A hoot to watch roof and when feed chickens etc come around for the seed. These birds are not fussy at what they eat anything from insects to small mammals, as well as fruits, seeds, and prickly pear catus.

    Roadrunner Cartoon .


      1. I often wonder if that is a heat regulator also on those still hot days…? Non-verbal communication among animals is amazing we humans use it quite a bit and can pick it up by observations -)


  3. My favorite place to watch these and other ducks, is on the lawn behind Down River Ice Cream in Essex–while eating some delectable ice cream treat! Love the marvelous variety of waterfowl. Thanks for this great post!


Leaving a comment rewards the author of this post- add to the discussion here-

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s