Saturday, January 28, 2017

Duck, Duck, Black Duck

Today was one of those rare visits to the park where I actually found what I was looking for –or somewhat expected to see. For the past few years I've been able to locate an American Black Duck or two mixed in with the Mallards in the duck pond on the southwest corner of the park. I scanned the group looking for anything darker than usual and sure enough there was one there. I shared one of these images with other bird watchers on the Minnesota Birding facebook group and some quickly pointed out that the bird was not a full fledged Black Duck, but a hybrid with a Mallard. There were a few reasons but the one that resonated most with me is that this bird actually showed some white on the edge of the speculum (blue wing patch) which shouldn't be visible on an American Black Duck. I suppose I can agree with that but for my own purposes I'm still counting this as a Black Duck versus a Mallard mostly because the bird is just waaaay darker in overall appearance, and has other Black Duck traits such as the olive colored bill. In fact in this next photo where you can see a female Mallard in the background, you can see just how different looking this bird is. Anyway, about the only other bird of interest I saw was this adult Cooper's Hawk. As a bird watcher it can be a constant challenge to differentiate Cooper's Hawks from Sharp-shinned Hawks as they tend to look so similar. I'm basing some of my ID on the fact that this bird seems to have a "dark cap" on the top of the head which stops there, whereas the dark area on a Sharp-shinned would continue down the neck. Tough to tell for sure in this particular image though. Oh, and the strange Muscovy X Mallard Hybrid was also still among the Mallards.

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