This section is from the book "The Dogs Of Great Britain, America, And Other Countries. Their Breeding, Training, and Management in Health and Disease", by John Henry Walsh (Stonehenge). Also available from Amazon: The Dogs Of Great Britain, America And Other Countries.
This is a small, but richly flavored bird, considered to be inferior to none except the canvas-back and the red-head. They are the first to move southward in the fall, and are found in vast numbers in suitable grounds in the western country, where they find acceptable food, such as wild rice, oats, and pond weeds. They congregate about small, muddy streams, where pond lilies and wild rice abound, and also in shallow sloughs. Gravelly streams or ponds are rarely frequented by them. This brd weighs less than one pound, and is about 16 inches in length. The head of the male is black on the upper part, with a half-moon shaped patch of white in front of each eye; the neck is purplish blue; the back brownish black, with green gloss; the lower parts pale reddish orange; the breast purplish red, and spotted with black. The wings are marked with rich lustrous blue, The female's head is pale buff, striped with dark lines, The upper parts are dark brown, the lower parts are dusky brown and grey.
The Green Winged Teal is smaller than the previous variety, and among other differences in color has the wings and back of the neck marked with deep bright green. This bird remains later in the season than the blue teal, but while it remains it associates with the latter, feeding and flying promiscuously with them.
The Pintail Buck is a bird of about 2 pounds weight, and measures full-grown 29 inches from bill to end of tail. The female is smaller and lighter than the male. In color this duck is greenish brown on the head, throat, and upper part of the neck; part of the neck is barred with brownish black and a yellowish white. The spots on the wings are coppery red with green reflections. On each side of the neck is a white band, and the upper parts in general are whitish.
The Sprigtail is the most handsomely formed of the whole duck tribe, and abounds in all parts of the country except in the New England States. Its food consists of the small acorns of the pin oak, the seeds of smartweed, cockle-burr, wild oats, and corn, and beech-nuts. This species is found in immense numbers at the opening of spring, occupying the overflowed fields and prairies, and feeding upon the drifting masses of grass seeds, corn, and waste grain. They soon become fat and in fine condition, and offer the best of sport, flying closely and irregularly, and are thus easily killed; several often dropping at one shot. Decoys are not used for hunting them. When wounded, and on land, they are difficult to retrieve without a good dog, as they can run rapidly and are apt to crouch and hide very closely, and so escape observation.
The Wood Duck is the most beautifully feathered of all the wild fowl, and are common to all parts of the Union except the sea-coast. Their nesting places are in stumps and hollow trees, whence they derive their name. They never dive for food, and are generally found about old musk-rat houses, logs, and banks, on the edges of patches of reeds. In the middle of the day they may nearly always be found in these spots sunning themselves and trimming their feathers. They are in season in August and September.
The American Widgeon is abundant in the waters of some of the Southern States, more particularly Missouri and Tennessee, and on the Chesapeake Bay, where they feed on the roots of wild celery, which they rarely find by diving for them, but most frequently procure by robbing the canvas-backs of the fruits of their subaqueous labors. They are distinguished from others of their tribe by their length of wing. They are easily brought down, as they fly clustered together, and several may be killed at a shot Spoonbills, seldom furnish sport themselves alone, but associating with mallards are often taken with them. They are easily decoyed and are killed by a slight blow; it is not unusual for a flock of 6 or 8 to fall before the discharge of both barrels. They are easily approached from the shore, and their habit of springing up directly in the air several feet before flying off on a course, gives an opportunity for using the second barrel with effect
The Dusky or Black Duck, weighs 3 pounds. The general color is blackish brown. It is frequently found in the West with the mallard, having the same food and general habits. In the East it is very numerous, and is eagerly pursued by sportsmen. It is very wary and must be approached with caution.