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Three Dabblers

Oct 22, 2018

Be on the lookout for three dabbling ducks winging through Missouri, the American wigeon, northern pintail, and gadwall.  These spring and fall visitors can be seen foraging in shallow waters around the state.  You may even see them poaching food from the bills of diving ducks when they surface. 

Wigeons are popular hunting ducks.  The males stand out for their white crown, green eye-band, and whistle call. 

Pintails are fast flyers with a zig-zag approach to landing.  Males have a pointed tail and whistle, while females quack and have pointed wings. 

Gadwalls have drabber looks but are a hunter’s favorite.  Like other dabblers, they can lift straight up from the water for flight.

Wetland preservation helps maintain healthy duck populations.  Fall is a great time to visit wetlands and watch the waterfowl migration.  Check out the video below to see the differences between dabblers and divers. And scroll through the media gallery to hear all three dabblers in action.

It’s a Wigeon’s World

  • A wigeon is a popular duck for hunting.  In fact, it is one of the most commonly hunted ducks in Missouri.
  • Some people call the American wigeon the “baldpate” (baldhead), for the male’s white cap and forehead.
  • Wigeons are usually seen in marshes, ponds, and lakes as they forage in shallow water.
  • These birds usually forage on aquatic vegetation and invertebrates. Vegetation is a larger portion of their diet than of any other dabbling duck. 
  • American wigeon commonly swim near various types of diving ducks as they forage below and dislodge aquatic plants. The wigeon eat the plants that float to the surface. They sometimes also snatch food from the divers’ bills as they reappear above water. For this, the American wigeon is sometimes called the “poacher.”

To discover more about the wigeon, visit the MDC’s Field Guide.


American wigeon male
American wigeon male

MO DOC-2018-Oct Wk 4 Three Dabblers-MDOC1810-LF04.mp3

Discover Nature Notes Radio
Learn about three dabblers winging their way through Missouri

Dabblers vs Divers

Learn how to tell dabbling ducks from diving ducks
Learn how to tell dabbling ducks from diving ducks


Gadwall pair swimming
Gadwall pair swimming
Gadwall pair


Photo of a pair of northern pintails in flight.
Northern Pintail Pair in Flight
The northern pintail’s long neck and uniform brown (male) and tan (female) face distinguishes it from other ducks.


Audio Icon
Listen to the sounds of gadwall and wigeon ducks


Audio Icon
Northern pintail sounds

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