Duck are often divided into “diving” ducks and “dabbling” ducks, terms used to describe how a particular duck feeds.

Dabbling ducks skim the water’s surface to gather food. At other times, they tip their head and neck forward, submerging them to sample food just below the surface. A few dabblers are able to dive to snatch a morsel of food or escape a predator. As a rule, dabblers are not able to fly as fast as diving ducks, but are able to land with precision. Most dabblers are able to take to flight vertically.

Although they can also skim the surface water for food, diving ducks are noted for their ability to propel themselves underwater in their search for food. Most diving ducks fly faster than dabblers, but require open water with sufficient “runway” space to both land and run along before taking off.

The size of a duck’s feet, where they are situated on the body and the size of the wing in proportion to the body help to determine whether a duck is a diver or a dabbler.

In the following list of features, can you determine which are most often associated with dabblers, and which with divers?

1. Small feet

2. Large feet

3. Feet situated near front of body

4. Feet situated near rear of body

5. Large wings relative to body weight

6. Small wings relative to body weight.

Which ducks in the following list of Chesapeake Bay species are dabblers, and which are divers?

7. American Wigeon

8. Gadwall

9. Mallard

10. Northern Pintail

11. Redhead

12. Ring-necked Duck

13. Ruddy Duck

14. Scaup


Dabbler Ducks: 1,3,5,7,8,9,10

Diving Ducks: 2,4,6,11,12,13,14