Monday, December 13, 2010
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Answer by Tony Leukering
Mea culpa! I forgot to put a red-text caveat with the original posting of this picture that respondents need not ID the two ducks in the upper right. So, since many attempted ID, I gave those that were correct in identifying them as Northern Shovelers (just two, Christian Nunes and Al Guarente) an extra bonus point and disregarded obvious attempts to ID them that went astray. Though the brown bird is probably not absolutely IDable, the bird with the dark head, white chest, and rufous side is certainly an adult (considering the date of the photo) male Northern Shoveler.
No respondents took a chance and provided me with the tack to her/his answer, so I guess that I'll have to provide the solution unassisted. The place to start might be the big, white things in the back. These were obviously Mute Swans as evidenced by the long and apparently-pointed tails; no respondents got them incorrect. Most respondents also got the front-right ducks correct: male and female American Wigeon. Though the female looks quite warm-colored, her pale inner secondary (visible as a bit of gray along the side) is, well, gray, rather than white and the head looks (on my screen, at least) grayish and not warm brown. None taking a stab at the male missed it, with its obvious white crown blaze and pink sides.
The real quiz subject was, however, the flying duck in the bottom left. I thought that it would give some fits and was right about it. The lack of any wing pattern and the contrastingly pale face should have ruled out all but the dark-winged scoters and Long-tailed and Ruddy ducks. The middle option is easily eliminated from consideration by the bird's dark belly. Surf Scoter can be ruled out by our quiz bird's black feet (Surf Scoters have orange feet, bright in males, dull in females; American Black Ducks all have bright reddish-orange feet). We can rule out Black Scoter by studying both ends of the bird: its face has a dark smudge and its tail is very short and spiky. Most importantly, though, those feet are ungodly big, a rarely-seen but distinctive feature of the species.
I took this picture of a flying female Ruddy Duck at Lighthouse Pond, Cape May Point SP, Cape May Co., NJ, on 31 October 2010.
Incorrect species provided as answers:
Black Scoter - 3
Eurasian Wigeon - 1
American Black Duck - 1
Surf Scoter - 1
Bufflehead - 1
Congratulations to the 10 of 17 getting the quiz correct:
Answer: Mute Swan, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Ruddy Duck