The Sooty Dabbler


The American black duck is easily mistaken for a female mallard duck. It does not help that they tend to flock with female mallards. The American black duck are more of a sooty brown color rather than a speckled brown color characteristic of mallards. The head and neck are a paler yellow-brown color. The wing patch on this bird is an iridescent purple color, which contrasts greatly with its bright orange or red feet. Males have a yellow-green bill and females have mottled olive bills.

These ducks are known to be great foragers and can survive harsh conditions. They are often seen feeding on submerged plant life by lifting their tails up in the air, the flock synchronized. This bottoms-up behavior is called “dabbling”. During the summer, they will eat frogs, toads, and snails as well. In the fall, they visit farmlands for grain and during winter they will settle down in unfrozen salt marshes since food is still available in these areas.

The American black duck is quite swift as it can take to the air instantly and fly at a speed of 25 miles an hour or more. Nearly hatched broods learn to fly by August (9 weeks from hatching). The mother duck encourages independent foraging at an early age.

I was lucky to be able to get close to these skilled dabblers. They weren’t afraid of me as I sat close to them to get some pictures. Being such great fliers, they could have easily flown away before I could catch a glimpse of them, but they decided to stay for the camera!



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