Mystery Bird: Crested Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos

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[Mystery bird] Crested Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos, photographed in Arizona. [I will identify this bird for you tomorrow]
Image: Rick Wright [larger view].

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

Rick Wright, Managing Director of WINGS Birding Tours Worldwide, writes:
Millennia of selective breeding have produced domestic ducks that are meaty, or manageable, or, as in the case of this quiz bird, just goofy.
Mallards have been domesticated for thousands of years, and virtually all of the “strange” waterfowl found on park ponds and tagging along with wild birds are renegade domestic Mallards. Birders occasionally speak incorrectly of these birds as “hybrids.” While it is true that most waterfowl will breed with anything feathered, these strange Mallards are not the result of crosses between species [hybrids] but of careful breeding for particular characters [breeds]. Our quiz bird’s ancestors were obviously selected for size, elegant plumage, and oh yes, that strange puffy crest on the back of the head. In fact, waterfowl breeders sell birds like this as “Crested Mallards” or “Crested Ducks,” and they are as carefully bred to standard as any pug or poodle.
Careful observers will have started at the rear of the bird, and will immediately have noticed the curled “ducktail.” That feature not only identifies the bird to species but to sex: only drake Mallards show those feathers, making it possible to sex even plain white breeds.
And how did this creature make its way to a park pond in urban Tucson? Two words: Easter Monday.
Review all mystery birds to date.


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: Crested Mallard, Anas platyrhynchos

  1. travelgirl says:

    that’s my mallard, from kirkland, washington. i photographed it a few times in the last four years while it waded around the marina park area…
    up-close, the pompom on its head looks like nothing more than feathers (with the right lighting, you can see through it), possibly / probably a mutation of sorts. it seems unaffected by its cranial adornment…
    unless there are more of these things out there than a single?

  2. The Green head, yellow bill and curly tail say ‘Mallard’.
    The Body says ‘Farm duck/hybrid’.
    The fluff on the head says ‘bad hair (feather) day’.

  3. travelgirl says:

    ok, i’m obsessive. instead of getting ready for work, i’ve prepared a little blog entry on them. if there’s interest, i’ll update with my recollections lo these many years ago (2005 and 2007)…

  4. JPS says:

    A manky mallard because of the atypical color and the ‘wig’.

  5. obryan214 says:

    a domestic crested/mallard hybrid

  6. Based on the distinctive crest, it can only be the rare and elusive Anas Pugilious Promotus, or Don King Duck. The Don King duck over winters in Las Vegas, where it nests in the sloughs alongside the tracks of the Grey V train line.
    Bad joke aside, I really enjoy your mystery birds.

  7. JohnB says:

    Ah yes, Anas platyrhynchos donaldtrumpii

  8. Rick Wright says:

    All right, you want to know how much of a bird “geek” I really am?
    donaldtrumpii is ill-formed by ICZN rules: eponyms are no longer permitted to be latinized, and so the correct genitive is donaldtrumpi, one I, please!
    And I don’t even know where to start with “pugilious promotus.” But Anas is feminine, and any appositional or adjectival epithets must agree in gender.

  9. Darr says:

    “But Anas is feminine, and any appositional or adjectival epithets must agree in gender. ”
    Maybe it is a metrolingual duck. 😉

  10. kamaka says:

    My name for creatures of this sort is: escapee.

  11. The Ridger says:

    Oh, yeah. Some kind of “marina mallard” – a hybrid – for sure. A truly startling one.

  12. Jim F. says:

    C’mon people – you don’t know a Mullard when you see one?? It’s a cross between a Mallard and a Mullet haircut…

  13. travelgirl says:

    where’s my answer? 🙂

  14. sara says:

    But breed (or variation) describes the result of domestication only. The crest is probably single gene mutation, so I do not think that crested would be called a breed.