“The Dabbling ducks, “dabblers” belong to the Anatinae subfamily; they have a worldwide distribution which includes 8 genera and 50 – 60 living species”.
| dab-bling-dʌk |
A dabbling duck is a type of numerous shallow water ducks that feeds by upending and dabbling: mainly along the surface of the water or; by tipping headlong into the water to feast on the vegetation, aquatic plants, and insects.
“These ducks are rare divers and possess a unique feature wherein their legs are positioned in the middle of their underside. This distinct feature enables these ducks to balance themselves properly when they are upside-down in the water. They tip up, instead of diving, in order to feed. The way their legs are positioned helps them to walk on land. are usually found in small ponds, rivers and other shallow waterways”.
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Characteristics Of Dabbling Ducks
1.Dabbling ducks are strong flyers and those plying their trade in northern parts, are highly migratory; they move south for the winter and vice versa for the summer.
2. Dabbling ducks have broad, flat beaks; this allows them to feed more quickly, as opposed to narrow bills that would not enable them catch as much food.
3. They float above the water while swimming; this will make it easier for them to tip up as they dabble.
4. Dabblers are often very vocal and are usually heard before seen; females are more likely to give hoarse quacking calls while the males’ call are more unique.
5. Dabbling ducks take flight from the water’s surface as they can spring directly into the air as opposed gaining momentum by running along the surface first.
6. They possess smaller and more compact feet than that of the diving ducks or other strong underwater swimmers.
7. They cannot dive under the water easily and are primarily found in estuaries or in freshwater ponds.
Identification Of Dabbling Ducks
Dabbling ducks are dimorphic. The males portray striking colors and markings than the more mottled camouflaged females. Some males may have unique feather displays, such as the upward curly tail of the mallard.
When the birds are actually dabbling and tipping up, their leg colors are easy to see and can be a good identification clue, as many of these ducks have bright orange, yellow or reddish legs. Bill shape and slope can be useful for identification, as well as the bill color and the size and color of the nail at the tip of the bill.
As with any birds, range, habitat and voice can also be good identification clues.
Courtship Display In Dabbling Ducks
There are 3 types of courtship displays in Dabbling ducks. Displays that are :
1.(type a) directed to specific females.
2. (type b) directed at rival males.
3. (type c) directed simultaneously to both male and females.
Displays Directed To Specific Females (type A).
“In most male (type a) displays (e.g grunt-whistle, head-tail-up, bridling; terminology for displays follows Johnsgard 1965), the long axis of the male’s body is broadside to the female; in others (facing the female, turn-back-of-head), the male’s bill is pointed at,or away from, the female.
Lorenz (1941) noted that these displays often feature conspicuous plumage, and most are accompanied by loud whistles or grunting noises.
During the grunt-whistle display: Males direct a spray of water sideways, always aimed at the target female (von de Wall 1963).
Simmons and Weidmann (1973) showed that similar directional bias is present also in three shaking movement that precede major displays. Such displays are thought to have evolved as signals that indicates the male’s in a specific female and are designed to attract that female’s attention to the performing male”.
Displays Directed At Rival Males (type B)
“Male-male (type B) displays are presumed to serve threat or appeasement functions, and to allow assessment of potential competitors. In Mallards, bill-up postures with ‘rabrab’ calls occur when male’s approach one another. Threatening with open bill or chasing often follows. The male’s face more or less obliquely toward one another, and the females may or may not be present (Weidmann and Farley 1971).
Similar bill up displays occur in other species in agnostic contexts. Subordinate make Green-winged Teal perform nod-swimming displays in response to approach by dominant males during social courtship, and apparently this functions as an appeasement signal (Laurie-Ahlberg and McKinney 1979)”.
Displays directed simultaneously to both male and females (type C).
“A good example of a display (the type C) that appears to give simultaneous signals to > 1 bird is the down-up of the Green-winged Teal.
The male orients broad side to the target female, but the display is given only when a rival female is present and very close (McKinney 1965b, 1975). Often there is a ‘3-bird lineup’, with the long axes of both male and female all parallel.
The displaying male is positioned the rival male and the female. Therefore, the grown-up display of this species appears to signal both courtship interest to the female and threat to the rival male (McKinney and Stolen 1982).
Standen (1980) conclude that pointing or ‘greeting’ display of the Chilean Teal has similar dual signal functions when performed in the presence of of a female and a rival male”.
How Do Dabbling Ducks Feed
Dabbling Ducks usually feed by dabbling and/or feeding upside down in water and also by grazing on land.
During breeding season they eat mainly aquatic invertebrates, such as insects (and their larvae), crustaceans, worms and mollusks. These ducks are diurnal throughout the breeding season.
During winter, they shift to a more granivorous diet i.e feeding on seeds of aquatic plants, coupled with sedges and grains. These ducks are often crepuscular or nocturnal throughout the winter.
Surface Feeding: Dabbling ducks carry out surface feeding by skimming along the water surface whilst stretching their necks with their bills parallel to the water.
The reason why the bill is usually parallel to the water is because It is carrying out “chewing” or “nibbling” with little bites.
This method proves effective when feeding on small aquatic insects that live on the surface of the water, or whilst foraging through algaes or plants in general.
It is not only restricted to dabbling ducks, as many other types of ducks also carry out surface feeding.
Tipping Up: The term “Tipping up” means that the ducks are simply upside down, with their head under the water and their tails straight upwards. At this position, dabblers may spread their feet to maintain their balance; they may also wave their tails slowly, so as to counteract their underwater head movement.
This type of feeding is very common among all dabblers.
In addition, dabbling ducks also use land in search for grains, seeds, nuts and insects. They graze with similar nibbling motion as they do during surface feeding. Dabblers are omnivorous birds, and will sample a wide variety of foods through their different feeding techniques.
American black ducks