Friday, November 30, 2012

One of These Ducks is NOT Like the Others!

 

1. ducks-kab Ducks in the fishing pond at Gilbert Water Ranch 11-12-12

I found these ducks in the Fishing Pond on the west side of Gilbert Water ranch. At first glance they all appeared to be Ring-necked ducks but as I looked closer I realized they were not all the same. The black and silver ducks with the white rings around their bills and the white “spur” on their flanks are the male ring-necked ducks. The brown ducks with the white eye ring and the white patch at the base of the bill are the female Ring-necked Ducks, but just look at that male duck 2nd from the right. He looks a bit different, doesn’t he?

2. facetoface-kab Here they are face to face. Can you see the difference in their bodies?

The black and silver male on the left is the Ring-necked duck, the black and silver duck on the right it the Lesser Scaup. Both species are diving ducks, which means they dive beneath the water for food, unlike the more familiar mallards, which are dabbling ducks that paddle about in shallow water to feed. Notice how the ring-necked duck has the black continuing along his back while the scaup is silver there. Also, the scaup has a solid blue-gray bill while the Ring-necked duck has a blue bill ringed with white. The brown ring around the neck for which the bird is actually named is rarely visible. But what caught my eye at first was the shape of the heads. I noticed that the scaup’s head was a different shape before I noticed anything else. It is what made me start to look at other details of the ducks.

3. lesser scaup-kab Lesser Scaup

Once I realized this duck was a scaup, I then had to decide if it was the Greater or Lesser Scaup. Yes, bird identification is not easy! The Greater and Lesser scaup have pretty much the same plumage pattern and to differentiate between the two one must look at the shape of the head, the sheen on the head feathers, and the nail on the tip of the beak. The Greater scaup has a steeper forehead and a higher peak in the front of the head that slopes off towards the back. the Lesser’s head is higher at the back of the skull. The Greater Scaup has a greenish sheen to its feathers while the lesser has a purple sheen. To me this photo does not show the head shape of the Lesser as well. this head shape actually looks more rectangular to me but everything else about this bird points to Lesser Scaup, including the fact that the Greater Scaup is whiter along the sides than the Lesser.

4. ring-necked duck-kab Ring-necked Duck (male)

 

5. lesser scaup-kab Lesser Scaup (male)

One of the things the bird guides point out is that the nail on the beak of the Lesser scaup is straight while the nail on the beak of the Greater Scaup flares out at the tip. In the photo above the nail appears to be straight to me. Greater scaup favor the coast while lesser scaup are more often seen inland in winter. But, Greater Scaup have been seen in Arizona before.

6. ringnecked duck-kab Ring-necked Duck (male)

Finding these ducks provided a fun challenge to the end of our day of birding at Gilbert Water Ranch. I have never birded the Fishing Pond before and found it a great place to get close to the birds. This was only my third time birding this preserve which is also know as the Riparian Preserve at Gilbert Water Ranch. If you are ever in Phoenix I would highly recommend this place as a premier birding location in all seasons, but in the summer I would recommend getting there very early as it gets very hot very fast!

7. annas hummingbird-kab Female Anna’s Hummingbird

(Seen in the scrub near the Fishing Pond.)

 

18 comments:

  1. Cool Kathie, great photo documentation. That's a great walk-through for the Scaup identification too. You've done your research! :)

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  2. Great shots for comparisons, Kathie! I enjoyed this post.

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  3. Your detail is meticulous. I learn so much about birding from you without ever leaving my house. Excellent captures.

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  4. Great post, Kathie!! I recognized it as a scaup, but I'm not sure I'd have been able to tell which one. Hopefully, from what I've learned here, I'll be able to remember next time I come across one. Thanks!! ~karen

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    1. KaHolly, we all just keep on learning!

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  5. In winter we occasionally get the Greater Scaup in single figures, but it is a rarity Kathie.

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    1. Roy, I have never seen great rafts of them as some people have. I can only imagine what a sight it is!

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  6. Terrific post Kathy, we get both Greater and Lesser here and your tips on ID will make it easier for me to distinguish between the two.

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    1. Mia, they sure are a challenge and I am still learning! the tip about the "nail" was a new one for me!

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  7. Greater Scaup are very common around here in the winter. I have pored over pictures to see if I could find a Lesser Scaup in the crowd but the differences are subtle. Great post.

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    1. Ruth, isn't that the way it is? depending on where one lives depends on which species is more common!

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  8. Great photographs and narrative for aiding in bird identification, Kathie! I always have a difficult time telling the difference between Greater and Lesser Scaups. This informative post will certainly help me in the future.

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    1. Julie, let's hope I remember all this info next time too, LOL!!!

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  9. I never would have spotted the difference if you had not pointed out. Great spotting.

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Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.