Diving Ducks

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Jan 31, 2009 | by Adrian Binns

I spent this morning back at Roosevelt Park looking at the waterfowl on the largest of their lakes. While this is freshwater it does attract its fair share of sea ducks which is why we often find a nice mix of both dabbling and diving ducks here. Ducks are sexually dimorphic meaning that there is a difference between males and females of the same species in color and size, and this can esily be seen here.

Redhead, female and male

Sea and bay ducks such as eiders, scoters, scaup, goldeneye, Harlequin, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck and Buffleheads are known as diving ducks, as they all dive to feed. Their legs are situated closer to the tail than in dabbling ducks. They have a hind toe with a paddle like flap to help them maneuver underwater. They have smaller wings than dabblers which means that they must run along the surface of the water in order to take off.

Ring-necked Duck, female and male

Buffleheads (left) are our smallest diving duck and the only diving duck with a lobed hind toe. It is also a cavity nester (as are wood ducks, which happen to be dabblers) and the size of the smaller female enables it to use Northern Flicker holes! Though primarily a coastal salt water duck in winter it is occasionally found on freshwater ponds. Males have a black head that in the right light shows a glossy green and purple iridescence with a large white head patch. Today was the first time that I had ever noticed the black feathering on the head protrude well away from the white patch. It certainly made for an interesting look in particlar where it wrapped around the neck (see photo).

all photos © adrian binns


  1. TigerLily on December 30, 2010 at 4:15 AM

    hi there,
    I just found your blog through blog walking and I enjoyed my time here. I like reading your journeys and the photos are fabulous too. It's nice to learn about the ducks 🙂 There's always something new to learn from the internet just like what i just learned from yours.

    Thanks for sharing your stories!


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