Dabbling Ducks

Tribe Anatini

Tribe List based on Helm’s “Wildfowl of Europe, Asia and North America” by Sebastien Reeber published by Bloomsbury 2015 ISBN: 978-1-4729-1234-3 with additional South American species not included in that publication from “Coloured Key to the Wildfowl of the World” by Peter Scott updated and published by WWT in 2006 ISBN: 0-900806-35-4

See Also: Diving Ducks Sea Ducks Shelducks

Dabbling ducks search for their food sifting through surface water, up-ending in the shallow reaches and often dabbling in the mud. Grass must be plentiful for species such as wigeon. The availability of clean water is essential. Dabbling ducks are happy with shallower and more restricted bodies of water than diving ducks. In the wild they are gregarious and happy to live in large mixed concentrations. Dabbling ducks legs are further central than other types of duck enabling them to walk well on land and graze. Dabbling ducks tend to take flight when spooked or on the move and are able to take flight straight from the water, unlike divers which have to run across the water to gain momentum.

MANDARIN DUCK (Aix galericulata)



The male has the most elaborate and ornate plumage with distinctive long orange feathers on the side of the face, orange ‘sails’ on the back, and pale orange flanks. The female is dull by comparison with a grey head and white stripe behind the eye, brown back and mottled flanks. They were introduced to the UK from China and have become established following escapes from captivity.



MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos)


The mallard is a large and heavy looking duck. It has a long body and a long and broad bill. The male has a dark green head, a yellow bill, is mainly purple-brown on the breast and grey on the body. The female is mainly brown with an orange bill. It breeds in all parts of the UK in summer and winter, wherever there are suitable wetland habitats, although it is scarcer in upland areas. Mallards in the UK may be resident breeders or migrants – many of the birds that breed in Iceland and northern Europe spend the winter here.






Many of the dabbling ducks use their flat bills to strain food items from the water, but the big spatulate bill of the Northern Shoveler is adapted to take this habit to the extreme. Flocks of shovelers often swim along with their big bills barely submerged in front of them, straining food from the muddy soup of shallow waters. Despite their heavy-set build, shovelers are good fliers; at large gatherings, groups often are seen taking off, circling the area repeatedly, then alighting again.



Slightly bigger than a mallard, these long-necked and small-headed ducks fly with a curved back pointed wings and a tapering tail, making this the best way to distinguish them from other ducks in the UK. The pintail is a ‘quarry’ species, meaning that it can be legally shot in winter, but – unlike in parts of Europe – it does not appear that shooting is affecting their population status in the UK. The small breeding population and significant winter population make them an Amber List species.




EURASIAN TEAL (Anas crecca)


These are thinly distributed as a breeding species with a preference for northern moors and mires. In winter birds congregate in low-lying wetlands in the south and west of the UK. Of these, many are continental birds from around the Baltic and Siberia. At this time, the UK is home to a significant percentage of the NW European wintering population making it an Amber List species.

RINGED TEAL (Callonetta leucophrys)



Ringed Teal is a small, beautiful duck of central South America, preferring wet forests and swamps in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, and Bolivia.  Males are pale faced with black crown and hindneck, a white hip patch, gray barred flanks, blue bill, and pink legs. While usually grouped with the dabbling ducks, the species may actually be allied more closely with the shelducks.



PUNA TEAL (Anas puna)


The Puna Teal is a dabbling duck of the Anas genus and is native of the Andes of Peru, Western Bolivia, Northern Chile and Northwest Argentina. In the wild, the Puna Teal lives in small groups of its own kind such as the closely related Silver Teal.


RED SHOVELER (Anas platalea)


The Red Shoveler, also known as the Red Shoveller, is a dabbling duck of the Anas genus found in South America. The Shoveler’s bill has a comb like structure on its edges which acts like a sieve to filter out food from the water’s surface. The Red Shoveler is common and is not threatened, it is currently classed as Least Concern.

FALCATED DUCK (Anas falcata)

The Falcated duck breeds in eastern Asia. It nests in eastern Russia, in Khabarovsk, Primorskiy, Amur, Chita, Buryatia, Irkutsk, Tuva, eastern Krasnoyarsk, south central Sakha Sakhalin, extreme northeastern North Korea and northern China, in northeastern Inner Mongolia, and northern Heilongjiang, and in northern Japan, Hokkaidō, Aomori, and the Kuril Islands.



Information on individual species taken from Avian Web, The WWT, RSPB and audubon

Pictures by Ken James

Some of my species photos as yet missing from this tribe include; Muscovy, White-winged duck, Wood Duck, Gadwall, the Wigeon’s, Baikal Teal et al. Ongoing…

See Also: Diving Ducks Sea Ducks Shelducks