British wildlife recordings
Teal and Wigeon
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Brownsea Island, Dorset: OS Grid Reference(402500,88500)
Calls of the teal and wigeon, recorded on Browsea Island, Dorset. The teal is the smallest and one of the most dapper British ducks. The male has a distinctive chestnut-brown head with a green eye-patch and a prominent yellow patch on the side of its tail, in contrast to the dull speckled-brown female. Although up to 2,600 pairs breed in the wet moorland and bogs of northern England and Scotland, the teal is much more abundant when around 200,000 birds influx from Iceland and northern Europe to spend autumn and winter in Britain. During this period, the teal frequents lowland lakes, gravel pits, reservoirs, and coastal lagoons in small flocks. It feeds in shallow water at night by picking food off the water's surface, filtering the water with its bill, and by upending. Its food consists of the seeds of aquatic and marsh plants in winter, and molluscs, aquatic larvae, and water beetles in summer. The male keeps in contact with its flock with a piping far-carrying whistle and the female respond with a rapid quack. Numbers of breeding teals in Britain have declined substantially in the last 30 years as their upland habitat has been lost to forestry. Teals are protected during the breeding season but are still shot at a number of their wintering sites. The wigeon is a medium-sized duck, slightly smaller than the mallard. As with all duck species, the male is quite striking in appearance whereas the female is a more camouflaged, mottled brown. The male can be distinguished by its chestnut-coloured head and neck, yellow forehead stripe, pink breast, and grey body with a pointed black tail. The wigeon is vegetarian, grazing on short grass or finding food in the water. It is often associated with other species and can be seen following behind swans, benefiting from food stirred up from the bottom. It feeds mainly on stems leaves and roots of plants, particularly eel grass which grows in estuaries. The call of the male wigeon is a rather evocative, whistling, "weee-ooo" sound which carries far across grazing marshes. The female has a much harsher growl-like call.Although a few hundred pairs of wigeon do breed in Britain, it is mainly a winter visitor, with large flocks of over 400,000 individuals wintering here. Britain and Ireland are particularly important for this species, holding almost half the European wintering population. Protected areas on estuaries and grazing marshes are thus crucial to ensure safe areas for these birds to feed during the winter.
Teal and Wigeon
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