The Garganey: Spatula querquedula, A Vibrant Visitor in the Indian Bird Sanctuary

Among the numerous winged visitors that India welcomes each year, the Garganey, or Spatula querquedula, holds a special place. An international traveler, the Garganey adds a fascinating dimension to the diverse birdlife of the country.Bird watchers and nature enthusiasts find this bird fascinating due to its distinct characteristics and migratory behavior.Its presence in the Indian bird sanctuary is both a delight and an indication of the region’s healthy ecosystem.

The Garganey belongs to the Spatula genus and is a small dabbling duck. An unmistakable sight with its distinctive plumage and active behavior, the Garganey is often seen skimming the surface of the water for food. Its journey from Europe and across the Palearctic to the warm climes of India, Africa, Bangladesh, and Australasia is a testament to the remarkable bird migration phenomena.

Serial NumberCharacteristicsDescription
1Common nameGarganey
2Scientific nameSpatula querquedula
3ColourMale: Brown head and breast with white crescent over the eye, rest grey with loose scapular feathers. Female: Brown with stronger face markings
4Average length41 cm
5Wingspan58-69 cm
6Weight300-440 g
7Type of birdDabbling Duck
8Found in India in statesPredominantly West Bengal, along with other regions
9HabitatGrassland adjacent to shallow marshes and steppe lakes
10IUCN StatusLeast Concern

Features of the Bird

Length and Wingspan

The Garganey measures an average length of 41 cm, a size that makes it a small, compact bird. However, this small size doesn’t translate to a limited wingspan. The wings of a Garganey can stretch between 58 and 69 cm, giving it the ability to take long flights during migration. The powerful, wide wings make the sight of a bird flying an enchanting spectacle for every bird lover.


Weighing between 300 and 440 g, the Garganey is a lightweight bird. This feature aids in its migration journey as less weight allows for better and longer flights.

Colour and Appearance

The Garganey is a male waterbird that can be easily recognized by its brown head and breast, which features a wide crescent of white over the eye. The rest of its feathers are a soft grey color, including the loose scapular feathers. Its bill and legs are also grey, and when it takes flight, it displays a pale blue speculum with a white border.

The brown female Garganey, while similar to the common teal, exhibits stronger face markings. Her crown is dark, and her face is reddish-brown, marking a beautiful bird picture for anyone seeking bird photos. The distinctive face markings, along with more frequent head-shaking when dabbling, are good indicators to identify the female Garganey.

Habitat and Food of the Bird

  1. Habitat: The Garganey breeds in grasslands adjacent to shallow marshes and steppe lakes, a sight commonly observed in a bird sanctuary. During winter, it migrates to southern regions, including India, Africa, Australasia, and Bangladesh.
  1. Migration: The Garganey is strictly migratory, with the entire population moving from Europe and across the Palearctic to warmer regions during the winter of the Northern hemisphere.
  1. Food Sources: The Garganey feeds mainly by skimming the surface of the water rather than upending, which is commonly observed in dabbling ducks. Its diet primarily consists of small invertebrates, plant matter, seeds, and aquatic vegetation.
  1. Foraging Behavior: The Garganey’s foraging behavior is characterized by a unique method known as ‘skimming’ or ‘dabbling,’ where the bird scoops up food from the water’s surface, a sight that often makes for a beautiful bird image.
  1. Breeding Grounds: The Garganey’s breeding habitat is grassland adjacent to shallow marshes and steppe lakes, a setting that provides the perfect bird house for its young ones.

Nesting and Nurturing

The Garganey’s nesting habit typically involves finding a safe and secure spot in the grasslands adjacent to marshes and lakes. The female is in charge of laying and incubating the eggs, whereas the male is responsible for guarding to protect their future offspring.

Upon hatching, the ducklings are nurtured and cared for by both parents, a touching sight for any bird lover. Garganey parents are fiercely protective of their young, ready to take on predators and threats. Observing this protective behavior is a rewarding experience for visitors to a bird sanctuary.


There are a few key threads that can be drawn from the life and habits of the Garganey. These threads not only tell us about the bird itself but also about the intricate tapestry of nature that supports such diverse birdlife.


One of the most striking aspects of the Garganey is its adaptability. This bird breeds in the grasslands and marshes of Europe and the Palearctic, only to embark on long, perilous journeys to warmer climes during winter. The bird’s ability to adapt to various environments is a testament to its resilience and survival instinct.


The breeding behavior of the Garganey is another interesting thread. By choosing secluded spots in grasslands and marshes to lay eggs, the Garganey showcases its preference for safety and security. The protective nature of both parents towards their offspring shows the bird’s commitment to the continuation of its species.


Migration is another significant aspect of the Garganey’s life. The long journeys the bird undertakes highlight its strength and endurance. These journeys also underscore the interconnectedness of the world’s ecosystems. The fact that the bird can find suitable habitats thousands of kilometers away from its breeding grounds speaks to the diversity and richness of our planet.

IUCN Status and Conservation

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the Garganey as ‘Least Concern’. This means that, currently, the species is not facing any immediate threats to its survival. However, potential threats could arise from habitat loss due to climate change and human activities. Therefore, the importance of a bird sanctuary cannot be overstated.

Conservation efforts are essential for ensuring the continuity of the Garganey’s existence. The bird is protected under the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA), which further strengthens its conservation status. However, it is essential to ensure the protection of its breeding and wintering habitats.

Whether you’re a casual bird watcher or a professional ornithologist, the next time you visit a bird shop or search for a bird shop near me, remember that each of us can play a role in preserving these remarkable birds. After all, the sight of the Garganey skimming the water’s surface, its distinct call echoing through the stillness, is a spectacle we would want future generations to behold.

With each of us doing our part, we can ensure that the Garganey remains a vibrant part of our birdlife sanctuary, painting a vivid bird picture that represents the richness and diversity of our natural world. So the next time you see a Garganey, remember, you’re looking at a little piece of nature’s grandeur, a symbol of survival, adaptability, and resilience.

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