Saturday, May 26, 2012

What duck is this?

After a week of rain, the sun finally chased away the clouds. Beach day! At Centennial Beach, the tide was out past the border marker and still retreating; kids flew kites and dug enormous holes, adults toasted themselves on the sand or walked and walked and walked; so did we.

But first, we stopped at the duck pond to watch 9 baby ducklings learning to dive. While we took far too many photos to sort in one evening, a pair of oddball ducks arrived to sit on the banks.

Drab ducks, at first sight. I thought they were both females, until I looked closer.

They match the descriptions of gadwalls in my guides, but not the photos. And the male has a few extra decorations.

Medium-sized, rather plain dabbling duck with white belly, steep forehead, yellow feet, white patch in speculum. MALE: Mostly plain, variegated grey with back plumes, puffy head shape, dark bill, black rump, undertail ... (Description from Birds of Southwestern British Columbia.)

The Audubon field guide adds, "... only duck with white speculum having black outer and inner margins. Breeding plumage of male is gray with contrasting black stern and brown forewing. Female ... yellowish bill; has white speculum like male.

From Cornell's All About Birds, I learn that, "No other dabbling duck has a small square white patch at base of wings. All other dabblers that have a black rear end have white just in front of it." And, "white patch on wing, may be hidden."

The male. White belly, black rear end, brown forewing, back plumes, variegated grey. In descriptions but not on duck; steep forhead; this one is more sloped, like a mallard's. Not in descriptions; dark bill has yellow edges. Brown patch on forewing has three white spots. Blotchy ring pattern around neck. The neck seems longer than any of the photos in the three guides.

The pair, showing white speculums.

So we're not sure of this one; is the male a mallard/gadwall hybrid? Those mallards do make life difficult!

The gadwall does not appear in my Birds of Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, although the other guides include the Delta in their range.

Tomorrow; those 9 ducklings.


  1. Mallard x Gadwall was my first thought too. The smooth tweedy look of the gadwall really shines through here

    head and bill shape says Mallard

    my Sibley shows Gadwall all through the lowlands and up the coast

  2. I love the wavy reflections in the second shot. - Margy


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