Saturday, May 28, 2016


(click for a google maps location)

I've griped (to myself) for some time that I've never really found an exciting bird while randomly driving somewhere... I see reports of "oh, the Swallow-tailed Kite / Scissor-tailed Flycatcher / Baird's Sparrow just flew past my car", but despite driving tens of thousands of km's per year, it hadn't really happened to me. Then BAM.

Here's this dark duck in a farm pond with some Mallards.

I was *only* packing binoculars, so the views weren't great - but something wasn't quite right. Clearly a Mallard-clan bird, but it didn't seem dark enough, or large enough, for American Black Duck. It also had a very odd green/blue/yellowish bill... I did my best to snap some photos with my cell phone (through binoculars - above & below pics) and went on my merry way... 

After finishing up some work, and running a few errands - I had the chance to do some "Gulf coast Mottled Duck" searching and found a few images, that of course, looked pretty darn good for what I saw a few hours earlier:

SOO of course, I grabbed the scope and made the drive back. Fingers crossed the entire time it would still be there... (Nothing worse than driving somewhere to look at nothing). 

Darn thing was sleeping in the same spot when I got back. First looks in the scope:

Yes, it shows a MODU-like pattern to the body...
YES - those central tail feathers curl up a tiny bit...

So clearly it's not "pure" (tail feathers indicate some Mallard genes somewhere down the line)

Check out the rest of the pics: 

Overall plumage (secondaries, crown, cheek, bill colour, body pattern) are nearly spot-on for Mottled Duck... It also shows the little black gape spot, although somewhat small/poorly defined in some shots... 

The curled tail feathers (ever so slightly) and the pale tertials show that it has a bit of Mallard in it (and perhaps the small gape spot as well)... 

So at bare minimum, I'd say it's an F2 hybrid, (Mottled X Mallard, crossed back with a Mottled)... Possibly even an "impure" Mottled Duck, with Mallard occurring 3 or more generations ago...

I'm not quite sure how this compares to other hybrids - say seeing an F2 Lawrence's Warbler, compared to finding a Golden-winged Warbler with a tiny bit of Blue-winged in it... But overall I'm pretty excited by it! 

Onwards to the next cryptic/dull/plain unusual bird....


  1. Hmmm.. interesting. To my eye this looks to be a female Black Duck. Check out the second photo on AllAboutBirds for them (the one by © Bryan Hix, IL, Carpentersville, January 2011). Maybe some Mallard way back in the genes but I don't see any Mottled in this one, bill colour doesn't look right to me. Guess that's what makes birding fun!

    1. To each his own I guess! I am confident in calling it a male - with perhaps the strongest feature being the curled central tail feathers.