Friday, July 10, 2009

Odd Duck - Help identify!

This afternoon as I left work I saw a group of what I took to be young mallards (the juveniles all look like females until the males acquire their adult plumage) on the ground near the river's edge. These are very pretty in a subdued sort of way - note the soft buffy coloring, the bluish-purple splash of the speculum, and the dark streak that passes through the eye and tapers toward the back of the head. But I soon noticed that one stood out as looking quite different.

The duck centered, above, was considerably darker and less obviously variegated than the others, had darker legs, and bore a blotchy white section on the front of its neck as well as some white at the top of its bill.

After some consultation with my resident bird expert, a field guide, and some internet searching, our best guess is that this might be a juvenile male northern pintail in the process of acquiring his adult plumage. Adult mail northern pintails have a striking brown head and white neck, and are also known for the long, elegant tail feathers that give it its name. Or could it be a mallard x pintail cross? Why else would it be in the middle of a flock of mallards? Or is it something else entirely? I welcome your thoughts/guesses/educated opinions!

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Jim H. said...

I think it's a mallard. She spent a semester in Europe and her tastes in plumage were broadened. She's now showing off a little bit to her siblings and expressing her individuality and wordliness. You can tell that the others are proud of their little sister but a little annoyed at her, too.

Penelope said...

Yes, excessive sophistication in the young always carries the potential for irritation.

Anonymous said...

Check out blue swedish duck. I think a mallard hen was consorting with a domestic drake or someone released a duckling they no longer watned. Color pattern is verys similar


Penelope said...

Anonymous - the color pattern of the blue Swedish domestic duck is indeed very similar, though the sites I looked at didn't describe brown as one of their colors. Interesting! Thanks for the tip!

Kirk Mona said...

Interesting. There does seem to be a similarity to the Swedish duck. Maybe a Mallard x Swede hybrid?