The garganey

Writer: Isaac Cohen  |  Editor: Zhang Chanwen  |  From: Shenzhen Daily

A male garganey is seen foraging in Shenzhen Bay Park. Isaac Cohen

The garganey

Every year, when winter arrives in Shenzhen, the city prepares its shores for the arrival of thousands of birds from other locations worldwide. Among those multiple species of migratory birds, probably ducks are the one species that makes up the biggest proportion. We can, for instance, enjoy at least ten different species of ducks in places like Shenzhen Bay Park, Futian Mangrove Park and OCT Wetland Park. Today, I would like to introduce a fascinating duck species, the garganey (Spatula querquedula). This medium-sized bird enjoys spending winter with us.


The garganey can grow up to 40 centimeters in length with a wingspan of around 65 centimeters. Like many of the other ducks that visit our shores, females and non-reproductive males can be easily confused with other species. Breeding males, however, are easily recognizable with a distinctive broad white crescent extending from above the eyes through the back of the neck that contrasts with its dark brown forehead and a light brown flecked face and neck. The chest is speckled with brown feathers; the belly abruptly changes to a striped pale gray. The wings have light grey and brown feathers and flashing blue coverts; the tail is of a darker brown with black tips. The legs and beak are dark grayish, and their eyes are brown. 


A male garganey spreads its wings in Shenzhen Bay Park.

Garganeys feed primarily on aquatic invertebrate animals, such as crabs, snails, worms and insects, but it also consumes small fish and frogs. However, when animal protein sources are scarce, these ducks also feed on plants.


Their breeding starts in April when they find their mate and lay up to ten eggs in a nest built by the female, who will incubate the eggs on her own, but under the protection of the male.


A female garganey in Shenzhen Bay Park.

An interesting fact about the garganey, since we already mentioned their resemblance with other species, is that they can breed with other duck species. Sometimes they create hybrids with such species as the green-winged teal or the northern shoveler, which happens to migrate to the shores of Shenzhen during the same period as the garganey.


Even though the garganey is not a globally threatened species, their numbers in Shenzhen are not significant compared with other visiting species. It is essential to preserve our shores and other natural habitats so more wild species can stop in our fantastic city during their global travel.