Image: Richard Ditch, 2008 [larger view].
Date Time Original: 2008:04:22 07:35:53
Exposure Time: 1/319
Please name at least one field mark that supports your identification.
Rick Wright, Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:
Any doubt that this is a duck? Happily, most downy waterfowl are encountered in the presence of their more easily identified parents (in ducks, usually the mother); but many ducklings have such distinctive down patterns that they can be identified even on their own: some are even beautiful, and you should never pass up a chance to see, for example, Northern Pintail or the skunk-like young of Black-bellied Whistling-Duck.
Compared to those snazzy species, the quiz birdlet is quite plain. The white secondaries and tertials show up as a clear bar, and there is a whitish patch at the base of the rump. The head is pale, with a dark crown, a clear and narrow eyeline continuing across the lore, and a less conspicuous black bar across the rear auriculars.
That head pattern is seen only among some of the dabbling ducks; divers (and wigeon, too) are plainer, showing either a big white cheek or an essentially unmarked head and neck. Among the dabblers, some, such as Northern Pintail or Green-winged Teal, have faces crossed by two stripes. The “standard” pattern shown by the quiz bird is truly typical only of the mallards, including Northern Mallard, American Black Duck, Mottled Duck, Mexican Duck, and the “island” mallards.
According to Nelson’s Downy Waterfowl, an essential and inexpensive reference, the hint of orange on the feet and the neat “widow’s peak” on this bird’s forehead suggest Northern Mallard rather than any of the “hen-plumaged” taxa. The obviously white belly of this bird also rules out Mottled and American Black Ducks. The presence of an auricular bar, the complete eyeline, and the foot color are probably enough to identify this bird as a Northern Mallard duckling.
Review all mystery birds to date.