Garganey are small, highly-migratory dabbling ducks. Annually, they travel between breeding areas in Europe and western Asia, and non-breeding areas in southern Asia and Africa.
What They Eat
Garganey are omnivores that strain their food from the water. Their diet includes aquatic invertebrates (worms, insects, crustaceans, mollusks), amphibians, small fish, seeds, roots, tubers and green parts of sedges, grasses and aquatic plants.
Where They Live
From spring to mid-summer, garganey breed in shallow inland bodies of water, including flooded fields, swampy meadows and small lakes with suitable plant cover. During non-breeding times, they are found at sea, in inland reservoirs or rice paddies, or in coastal areas with brackish or freshwater.
What They Do
Garganey are highly social, forming large groups in non-breeding areas and during migration. They are territorial during breeding season and are found in pairs or small groups. Garganey nest near water in areas that have tall grasses or reeds to provide cover.
How They’re Doing
With a large and widespread population, garganey are not considered threatened. Nevertheless, their numbers are decreasing due to increased human disturbance, disease, nest predation and habitat destruction.
- The male garganey has an unmistakable broad, white crescent that extends over his eye and partway down his neck.
- The garganey is sometimes called the cricket teal due to its chirp-like vocalizations. Males vocalize during the breeding season with a harsh rattling or distinctive crackling call that sounds like breaking ice, a stick being drawn across a railing or a fingernail running down a comb. Females utter a low quacking note.
- During the breeding season, garganey are highly territorial and small bodies of water might only have one breeding pair.
- Female garganey construct nests near water. The nest is a depression lined with plant material and feathers. It is surrounded by tall grasses or reeds for protection.
- A typical nest contains 8-11 warm buff or pale straw-colored eggs. The female sits on the nest while the male guards the area. The female alone cares for the young. Ducklings are capable of flight at 35-40 days of age.
- Males and females molt after breeding season. During this 3-4-week time period, they replace their feathers and cannot fly. Male garganey will remain in “eclipse” plumage (dull, non-breeding plumage) for half of the year, and sometimes up to ten months. This is unusual for waterfowl males.
- Garganey are able to beat their wings so rapidly that they produce a hissing noise.
Garganey are abundant with considerable numbers throughout their large range. The global population is estimated to contain between 2.6 and 2.8 million ducks. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists garganey as being at “least concern” for extinction. Despite the huge populations and expansive range, their population is declining in recent years. Threats include hunting, habitat loss, lead poisoning, human disturbance and disease.