Ducks in a ditch

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I was walking to the beach this morning and I saw this little tucked-up duck by a drainage canal along Ocean Blvd, A1A on Hutchinson Island.

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Here’ s better look. I think it’s a Blue-Winged Teal.

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Pairs and small groups of this tiny dabbling duck inhabit shallow ponds and wetlands across much of North America. Blue-winged Teal are long distance migrants, with some birds heading all the way to South America for the winter. Therefore, they take off early on spring and fall migration, leaving their breeding grounds in the United States and Canada well before other species in the fall.

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See the little patch of blue?

Size & Shape: A small dabbling duck, a Blue-winged Teal is dwarfed by a Mallard and only a touch larger than a Green-winged Teal. Head is rounded and bill is on the large side.

Color Pattern: Breeding males are brown-bodied with dark speckling on the breast, slaty-blue head with a white crescent behind the bill, and a small white flank patch in front of their black rear. Females and eclipse males are a cold, patterned brown. In flight, they reveal a bold powder-blue patch on their upperwing coverts.

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The female Blue-Winged Teal was quite close by.

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Behavior: Pairs and small groups dabble and up-end to reach submerged vegetation. You’ll often find Blue-winged Teal with other species of dabbling ducks. They are often around the edges of ponds under vegetation, choosing a concealed spot to forage or rest.

Habitat: Look for Blue-winged Teal on calm bodies of water from marshes to small lakes. The prairie-pothole region is the heart of their breeding range, where they thrive in grassy habitats intermixed with wetlands.

So I guess this pair is on its way north.

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Nearby, a pair of dabbling ducks that live year-round in Florida: Mottled Ducks.

The only duck adapted to breeding in southern marshes, the Mottled Duck is a dull relative of the Mallard. It is in danger of being displaced by introduced Mallards, primarily because of hybridization.

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Pretty feathers. And such orange feet.

Compared to other species of ducks, pair formation occurs early, with nearly 80% of all individuals paired by November. Breeding starts in January, continuing through to July and usually peaking in March and April.

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Habitat: Freshwater wetlands, ditches, wet prairies, and seasonally flooded marshes.

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Also, on Wikipedia…

The mottled duck (Anas fulvigula) or mottled mallard is a medium-sized dabbling duck. It is intermediate in appearance between the female mallard and the American black duck. It is closely related to those species, and is sometimes considered a subspecies of the former, but this is inappropriate (see systematics).

There are two distinct populations of mottled ducks. One population, A. fulvigula maculosa (mottled duck), lives on the Gulf of Mexico coast between Alabama and Tamaulipas (Mexico); outside the breeding season individual birds may venture as far south as to Veracruz. The other, A. fulvigula fulvigula (Florida duck), is resident in central and south Florida and occasionally strays north to Georgia. The same disjunct distribution pattern was also historically found in the local sandhill cranes.

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Bigger picture of where I was walking, along A1A, and the ditch next to the Hutchinson Island Marriott golf course. The water level is low now, at the end of the dry season.

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Also spotted wading in shallow water then walking off across the dry mud, a Tricolored Heron.