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March 2019

Saturday, 23 March 2019

April Bird of the Month - Garganey

April Bird of the Month - Garganey

As with all ducks, the sexes are dissimilar but they have in common a slightly oblong head shape, a flat crown, a straight grey bill and size wise they are slightly longer than teal.

The male is a striking looking bird with broad white stripes over the eyes that curve down and meet at the back of the neck. The breast is mottled brown, the flanks finely barred with grey, belly is white and the back has black and white drooping feathers. In flight the blue-grey forewing is evident.

The female is similar to a female teal, but has a white throat and a pale patch at the base of the grey bill. In flight the forewing of the female is grey. She also has a darker eye-stripe that contrasts with a pale stripe over the eye, a diffuse dark line across the face and a darker crown.

The male in eclipse resembles the female but the sides of the head are more heavily streaked.

The calls of the male include a dry rattle and a burping sound used in display. The female has a quiet 'quack' similar to a teal.

Pairs form in winter and arrive together on their breeding grounds, where a small territory is established. Water meadows, flooded grassland and reedy or marshy pools and ditches are habitats of choice, so long as there is plenty of cover from grasses and rushes.

The female incubates the clutch of eggs for about three weeks and the male usually leaves the area at this time. Young can feed themselves shortly after hatching and fly at around 35 to 40 days. Garganey feed mostly whilst swimming, either from the surface or by upending. Food includes insects, larvae, snails, shrimps, worms and tadpoles. Vegetable matter is also taken.

In Britain this species is protected by special penalties at all times.

Please join us on our walk at Sevenoaks KWT Reserve this month for a chance of seeing a garganey.