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This month's quiz ducks – and ducks they are, as evidenced by the patterned flank feathers – are, by those same patterned flank feathers, almost certainly dabbling ducks. Of course, as the left one is inverted into the water in the manner of a dabbling duck foraging, let's go with it. Once we get to thinking about the various dabbler options, we might notice our birds' green specula and opine, "Yow, this one's easy: Green-winged Teal!"
Unfortunately, it's not that easy, as there are features that do not match an ID of Green-winged Teal. In the identification process, not only do we need to determine what field characters a bird has that point to a given ID, we also need to determine what field characters that a bird possesses that rule out other species. In that vein, the features that argue against an ID of Green-winged Teal are many and include, particularly, the whitish tail, the lack of a yellowish patch at the base of the tail, and the orange legs… er… leg. This, then, is the reason behind the use of this picture in the quiz: A surprising number of birders do not know that all ABA-area teal have green specula, as do both wigeons and Northern Pintail. “Green-winged Teal” is not a very ID-helpful name.
The left bird shows just a bit of its left leg and that bit is bright orange; Green-winged Teal (both Old World and New World) sport dark legs, as does Garganey. Blue-winged and Cinnamon teal have pale legs, but they do not usually get this bright. Baikal Teal have gray or grayish-yellow legs. Additionally, most of the tail of the left bird is white, a feature at odds with nearly all dabbling ducks. Mallards have bright orange legs and white tails, but their specula are blue. However, iridescent colors are tricky – could the green just be a trick of the light with a structural color? While certainly possible, the trailing edge of the speculum visible on the right bird rules Mallard out – it lacks the wide, white terminal band of that species.
What's left is the biggest teal of them all. I took this picture of two female Northern Shovelers at Cape May Point State Park, Cape May Co., NJ, on 13 November 2010.
The following people (listed by submission date beginning with the earliest) submitted correct answers for the April Bird Photo Quiz—Northern Shoveler:
The following list shows the number of submissions for each species guessed.
The photo and answer for this quiz were supplied by Tony Leukering.