Sunday, January 21, 2018

Funny Ducks

It was another cold day at the park this Sunday morning. I really didn't see much until I came to the southwestern corner of the park where I could hear all the Mallards quacking even before I got there. I figured I would spend some time looking among them in hopes of maybe finding an American Black Duck which is an entirely different species. It didn't take long before I noticed an unusually dark looking duck. After seeing it's wing patch or "speculum" I could see it was missing the wide, white border that is present on Mallards. It's funny how predictable they have come to be here each winter. I am learning more all the time about Black Ducks and one thing in particular I am learning is that a high percentage of them have Mallard genes, meaning the two species commonly interbreed. In fact someone pointed out in one of these photos that there IS still the tiniest sliver of a white border on the wing patch, something that should be completely missing on a pure American Black Duck. Knowing this now, it's more apparent that the vast majority of Black Ducks I have spotted thus far have not been 100% pure American Black Duck. Maybe a few have but they would actually be the exception to the rule it seems. Whenever I do see one that I suspect has at least some Black Duck genes, I find it helpful to get a photo of them next to a regular Mallard for comparison. My second photo here shows just that. There was one other odd looking duck in the group today who seemed to possess the qualities of maybe more than two different species! One term I've learned over the years that is often used to describe such ducks is a "Manky" Mallard. Manky is a British term that generally refers to a wild duck that has bred with a domestic duck. Which is exactly what I thought I had here. BUT after sharing the photo with other bird watchers, their consensus was simply another Mallard x American Black Duck hybrid. So probably two wild ducks and not necessarily any part domestic, thus not really a "Manky" Mallard. I've found a LOT of variable ducks over the years and I find them to be a confusing yet very interesting topic. Every time I think I know what I'm looking at, I find out I'm not as versed as I think I am. Oh well, they are certainly fun to guess at! Here is an interesting online source I stumbled upon some time ago: Later on I spent some time trying to relocate the Northern Shrike from last week but could not find it.

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