Friday, November 14, 2014

Migrating Ducks

Photo from The Audubon Society Master Guide to Birding, Vol. 1
Immature Female
I was birding last week with a friend along the river and we found some diving ducks.  There were two flocks of COMMON GOLDENEYES totalling 30.  Under the bridge was a flock of 11 RING-NECKED DUCKS.  There was one with the Ring-necks that was a bit different.  It was approximately the same size and shape as the Ring-necks but had a different head.  The flock was feeding heavily, moving frequently to the bottom, making it difficult to get a good view.  The unusual one kept disappearing making me wonder if I was seeing things.  Finally I got a second look and it certainly was not a Ring-neck.  It had a sloping forehead and some white on its head.  It looked like the photo above but much darker because it was at a distance.

Getting a closer look I noticed there were two white spots on the head and a small white patch on the wing speculum.  That prompted me to get my bird book out to confirm my suspicions.  Yes, it was a WHITE-WINGED SCOTER.  But the female should have very muted white patches on its head and this one had much whiter spots.  It was a juvenile!  The head of the juvenile is different this time of year; whiter spots.  

Photo from The Sibley Guide to Birds, p.99

That is a somewhat unusual species here on the river in Fredericton.  A single bird with a group of Ring-necks is also unusual.  But, things get mixed up during migration.  Groups of scoters do migrate down the St. John River but they are usually pure flocks of scoters.  They can be mixed scoter flocks (Black Scoter, White-winged Scoter, and Surf Scoter) but it is unusual for them to have other species with them.  And, it is even more unusual to find a single scoter mixed in with a flock of other ducks.  Such is migration and how nice!

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