Mystery Bird: Redhead, Aytha americana

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[Mystery bird] Male Redhead, Aytha americana, photographed at Hermann Park, Houston, Texas. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]
Image: Joseph Kennedy, 22 January 2008 [larger view].
Nikon D200, Kowa 883 telescope TSN-PZ camera eyepiece 1/180s f/8.0 at 1000.0mm iso400.

Read an analysis for how to identify this species below the fold;


Rick Wright, Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:
Here’s a puffy-headed Aythya with a uniformly reddish head — a prominent feature that leads us directly to the correct identification. This drake Redhead shows all the standard marks: the vermiculated gray sides and back, the extensively black breast, the yellow eye. Note the exact pattern of the bill, too; hybrid pochards resulting from various combinations can look like Redheads, but (so far as we know) only a true Redhead will show the distinctive color zones of the bill: largely blue, with a broad and reasonably well-defined white band behind a completely black bill tip.
And what about head shape? The crown of a Redhead is narrow and “squeezed,” the cheeks muscular, curving down into the slightly narrower neck. Compare this nearly head-on view with the recent shot of a Canvasback drake.
Review all mystery birds to date.

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About GrrlScientist

grrlscientist is the pseudonym of an evolutionary biologist and ornithologist who writes about evolution, ethology, and ecology, especially in birds. After earning a degree in microbiology (thesis focus: virology) and working at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, she earned her PhD in zoology from the University of Washington in Seattle, where she studied the molecular correlates of testosterone and behaviour in white-crowned sparrows. She then worked a Chapman Postdoctoral Fellow at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, where she studied the speciation and distribution of lories and other parrots throughout the South Pacific Islands. A discarded scientist, she returned to her roots: writing. Formerly hosted by The Guardian (UK), she now writes about science for Forbes and for the non-profit think tank, the Evolution Institute and she writes podcasts for BirdNote Radio. An avid lifelong birder and aviculturist, she lives with a flock of songbirds and parrots somewhere in Germany.
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0 Responses to Mystery Bird: Redhead, Aytha americana

  1. Bob O'H says:

    Ooh, it looks like a redhead! It appears in my Collins guide, but only to show that a Swedish birder in the 1960s couldn’t recognize a hybrid in Malmö.
    Bird recognition by the book. 🙂

  2. Hilary says:

    Oh, yes – a lovely Redhead drake; a bird I’ve never seen in life, though a female has been wintering near my home for the past coupla years. Hope she brings a friend this year!

  3. RM says:

    drake redhead

  4. JohnB says:

    One of my favorite diving ducks: a drake Redhead, and a beautiful shot of him too.