Today, we’ll finish off the common dabblers with two pairs of fairly common ducks that like small to medium-sized ponds and lakes.  The first pair are among our smallest ducks, with Mallard-like females, and the males of both pairs are very easy to identify.  Luckily they tend to hang out in mixed flocks, so you’re almost always going to find both males and females together.  Let’s start with the small ducks – the Teals.  First up we have the very snazzy Green-winged Teal, which (as the name implies) has a bright, metallic green speculum, which immediately distinguishes the female from the otherwise similar (but larger) Mallard female.  The male is hard to mistake, with his cinnamon head sporting a bright green ear crescent, not to mention the black-and cream tail, gray body and vertical white stripe just behind the speckled rusty breast.

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The other half of our eastern Teals is the Blue-winged Teal, which (as the name implies) has a blue forewing very much like the male Shoveler’s.  The female does not have a brightly-colored speculum, but the blue forewing is just as good a field mark.  The males are quite different from the Green-winged; the key field mark is the blue-gray head sporting a bright white crescent behind the bill, and also a speckled rusty body, and a white patch in front of the black tail.

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The next pair of ducks is not actually a pair, since only one of them is normally found in our area, but the other half turns up often enough that it should be looked for.  These are the Baldpate twins, but as so often happens, they’re almost complete opposites.  Although the females look very similar, the males are quite different, apart from the white forewing.  The common American Wigeon has a whitish pate (‘top of the head’ to most of us), gray head (with green ear crescent) and reddish sides.  The Eurasian Wigeon, a rare, but regular, winter visitor, is almost the reverse – gray sides and a reddish head, which sports a creamy pate.  It’s always worth looking for a Eurasian male in any flock of Wigeons.  Every winter there seems to be one or two that turn up in our area, often in the same place each year.

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