Thursday, February 16, 2017

Mixed-Up Ducks

This winter there have been a number of hybrid ducks reported on the St. Clair River. We do get various oddities reported every year, but some ducks have been seen with some regularity.  Thanks to Mike Bouman of Sombra (who spends much time observing and photographing ducks along the St. Clair River) for providing some information.
Going through literature, there have been many types of hybrids found throughout history, usually involving species in the same genus.  Often these are seen in the Aythya type ducks.  Sometimes unrelated ducks have even been involved in hybridization, creating bizarre offspring!  See this link of an apparent Ring-necked X Ruddy Duck

During the current winter, one hybrid that has often been seen is the apparent Ring-necked X Redhead male.  Mike Bouman first found this attractive duck at Sombra January 19.

see bird front and centre

Obviously is exhibits characteristics of both species.  The dark head, shaped somewhat like a Ring-necked, shows a slight reddish sheen.  The bill also shows combined characteristics.

One also showed up at Corunna in the second week of February, which we assumed to be the Sombra bird.  It is possible that there are two out there, but for now we count one that moves around!
This bird was likely present in early April 2015 off Cathcart Park, as well.

Ring-necked Ducks must be quite busy, as an apparent Ring-necked X scaup male has been seen at Corunna.  It is difficult to say whether one of the parents is a Lesser or Greater Scaup.  When I saw this bird on Sunday, I first thought Greater Scaup as the head had a greenish sheen. Although the head shape suggests Lesser Scaup, that shape could possibly come from the Ring-necked side of things.

However, scaup can be variable.  Usually Lesser Scaup shows a purplish sheen to the head, while the Greater shows a greenish sheen. Sometimes this can be switched and I have seen it myself.  Lighting is everything!
Here is a link to an apparent Ring-necked X Lesser Scaup male which is almost identical to the Corunna bird.  The wing bar was seen in flight, so that was another check for Lesser.

An apparent Redhead X scaup hybrid male has also made an appearance at Sombra 14-25 January.  This was studied by Mike Bouman as well. It has almost a burgundy-coloured head.  This photo does not show that well though.

Other hybrids have included an apparent Hooded Merganser X Common Goldeneye. This one was seen off Cathcart Park January 19.  We usually get one on the river each winter which could possibly be the same bird returning.  We saw one at Guthrie Park, Corunna last year.
I recall one returning the to Fawn Island area each winter many years ago.  I have it recorded as 1997-1999.  Previous to that, I remember Dennis Rupert mentioning that one returned to that area each winter.  Dennis died in August 1996, so obviously it was some years before that.

Common hybrids include Mallard X Black which we see quite regularly.

There are many reports of "puddle ducks" mixing it up such as Mallard X Northern Pintail which I have seen a couple of times. Blue-winged Teal X Northern Shoveler, etc.

One of the less common ones is Mallard X Gadwall. Recently, Deryl Nethercott photographed an apparent male of this combination somewhere in the HSA (Hamilton Study Area).  It is often called "Brewer's" Duck.

Then there are other oddities such as the female Mallard that dresses as a male at Port Lambton!

Next time you see a big raft of ducks, look closely, and you many find something of interest!

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