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 1/250s 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:
Look at that tail! The elegant black-and-white patterning of this duck told us at first glance we were looking at a pochard, and there’s really only one species in that group with such a long tail, often held cocked up. Just to be sure, let’s move slowly forward. This bird’s back is jet black, separated from the silvery of the sides by a lavish S-curve. The silver brightens towards the front, becoming a white wedge that reaches up almost to divide the black of the breast from the black of the back.
The head is purplish-black, but far more eloquent than its color is its shape: a nearly vertical nape, a puffy crest, and a very steep forehead, with a definite stop between head and bill. And the bill is silver, with a fine white border at the base, neat white outlining surrounding the nostrils, a broad white subterminal band, and a wide black nail. It all adds up to a Ring-necked Duck.
That eponymous neck ring is visible only when the bird stretches its neck, showing a band of plush brown feathers that in the right light contrast nicely with the head and breast; beginning birders always complain that the bird should be called “ring-billed,” but they forget that the name (a translation of the scientific epithet, collaris) comes from inspection of a bird on its back on a table, a position showing the neck ring to full advantage but leaving the strikingly marked bill unseen.
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. Andy says:

    Ring-necked duck. Gray sides with white mark pointing up at the front, gray bill with white margins and black tip, sharp peak on back of head.

  2. Adult male Ring-necked Duck. The white spur on the neck is what drew my eye first.

  3. JohnB says:

    The ring on the neck is not visible, and almost never is in the field, but the black back, white hook near the black breast, ringed bill (hunters call them ring-bills) and peaked crown all add up to Ring-necked Duck.

  4. Donna Brandt says:

    We have a new pair of ducks on our canal. One is solid black and the other is black with white markings. We see them flying down the canal in Bay Saint Louis, Ms and cannot give further markings at this time. Can you help ID these Ducks. They are large, but they are not geese.
    Thank you for your help,
    Donna