By Kelsey Condell
Dabbling ducks are ducks that feed at the surface of shallow waters or by tipping head first into the water. These birds dive infrequently and also may forage on land for seeds and insects. Dabbling ducks tend to have broad, flat bills and float high in the water. Many dabbling ducks can be spotted here in Long Beach and Seal Beach.
Northern shoveler pairs are monogamous and stay together longer than most other dabbling ducks. During mating displays, males will utter a repeated, liquid, hollow "g-dunk g-dunk g-dunk" in flight as well as from the water. Courting behavior includes various calls, turns, dips, and wing flaps. These birds breed in Canada and north-central United States. Shovelers nest in vegetation near water, and build simple nests in scrapes lined with vegetation and down. Clutches are usually 8-12 eggs.
Northern shovelers spend their winters in California, coastal Louisiana, Texas, and Mexico. These birds travel south along the Pacific or Central flyways. Their wintering habitat includes fresh and brackish coastal waters and they are now being seen all over Los Cerritos Wetlands and at the Colorado Lagoon!
Most cinnamon teal breed in the western United States. They form pairs before arriving at breeding grounds, and build nests in grassy areas and on islands. Females usually lay between 8-10 eggs. Females place their nests below mats of dead vegetation to conceal their eggs. In fact, she must approach her nest through tunnels in the vegetation. Cinnamon teal are seasonally monogamous, meaning they usually select new mates each year.
Cinnamon teal are early migrators in the fall, and often travel in groups with other species of ducks. Nearly all cinnamon teal winter in Mexico and Central America, but some winter with us in California and southwestern Arizona. Cinnamon teal are omnivores, and feed mostly on aquatic vegetation, aquatic insects, seeds, snails, and zooplankton.
This species breeds across northern areas of Eurasia and in Canada, Alaska, and the Midwestern United States. These birds are among the earliest nesters, and can be found in nesting grounds shortly after ice-out. Northern pintails build nests in scrapes in the ground and build their nests in brush or grass, lined with grass and down. Females lay clutches of 7-9 eggs, and the hen alone incubates the eggs until they hatch.
Northern pintails are also some of the first ducks to migrate south, and mainly winter south of their breeding ranges. They can be found dabbling in waters here in Long Beach. They winter in a wide variety of shallow inland freshwater and intertidal habitats. Northern pintails feed mostly in the evening and at night, and are usually seen resting in the water during the day.
Sadly, Northern pintail populations have been in decline for a number of years. Populations have declined by 69% in the past 40 years. They are currently listed as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN, but they have also been identified as a Common Bird in Steep Decline. These birds are threatened by hunting, habitat loss, disease, and lead poisoning.
They also reach wintering grounds very early, with Alaskan and Canadian populations migrating along the Pacific flyway. Wigeons use many habitats in winter, including ponds, lakes, and saline and brackish marshes with enough aquatic vegetation. Wigeons are mostly herbivores and graze on aquatic plants and on grasses and sedges on land. Wigeons are also known as “poachers” because they steal food from diving ducks!
American wigeons are also listed by the IUCN as species of Least Concern, however they have been identified as another Common Bird in Steep Decline. They are the fifth most hunted bird in the United States, and are also threatened by loss of habitat due to droughts and wetland conversion.