Mystery Bird: Ring-necked Duck, Aythya collaris

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[Mystery bird] Ring-necked Duck, Aythya collaris, photographed at Hermann Park, Houston, Texas. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]
Image: Joseph Kennedy, 11 March 2008 [larger view].
Nikon D200, Kowa 883 telescope TSN-PZ camera eyepiece 1/200s f/8.0 at 500.0mm iso400.

Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.


Rick Wright, Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:
This photo should fill you with a flush of accomplishment: rather than running to the field guide, you just looked at the tail, didn’t you, and immediately figured out that this was a female Ring-necked Duck.
The trick with brown ducks is that structurally they almost always closely resemble the bright males. Compare this brown Ring-neck with the fine black-and-silver drake from an earlier quiz [GrrlScientist comment: oops! I haven’t shown you that duck yet, sorry], and you’ll see that they share the long, cocked tail, the vertical nape, the steep forehead, and the slightly undersized bill; she may be ever so slightly less extravagant in those structural features, but they are still readily discernible, making this one of those birds you can identify at half a mile from a speeding car.
And in a view like this, we can use a few of the old “field marks” to confirm our analysis: the back is blackish, and the border between the back and the rather cold-colored sides is lavishly curved. The secondaries are dull silver. The face is paler than the crown, and there is a neat eye ring with a bridle mark trailing off behind. And the bill has a narrow white subterminal band behind the broad blackish tip.
But all you really needed was the length of the tail and the angle of the nape. Try it — it works.
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: Ring-necked Duck, Aythya collaris

  1. Greg Laden says:

    This one’s easy. It is some kind of DUCK!!!!

  2. Nalgas says:

    A duck-billed quackapus?

  3. Female ring-necked duck. Eye-ring, dark upper parts, buffy lower parts.

  4. Bob O'H says:

    Where’s the ring, though? or is it still a spinster?

  5. Albatorssity says:

    Ring-necked Duck, female.
    White ring on bill, white plumage at base of bill, eye-ring that has a hint of a “tail” at the rear of the eye. Clincher is the gray cheeks (would be brown on any other Aythya species).

  6. blf says:

    yellow rubber ducky.
    it looks like a duck and floats.

  7. but it’s not yellow! (unless you are color-blind).

  8. blf says:

    details, details. was probably spray-painted in a pathetic attempt to mislead. besides, it’s clearly rubber or plastic. with a few feathers glued on as part of the deception.

  9. BA says:

    I’d go with R-N duck also. Maybe Scaup but head is not flat so RN.