Typing duck in flight

Since so much of our ranch is a Texas Cross Timbers habitat with one large pond, I find ducks most interesting since they have uncommon presence and seasonally come and go.  I do not know with graceful skill the typing of these water creatures.  I tentatively identify the duck below as Canvasback (Aythya valisineria).  Peterson’s Field Guide to Western Birds states, “A very white-looking duck with a rusty-red head and neck, black breast, long blackish bill.”  I am not sure and will correct my identification if anyone can discern factors I have missed.  In any case, here is what I regard as a Canvasback.  Please let me know in the comment section of this post or e-mail me at matthewsranch@msn.com or tweet @sage2m if you have an opinion.  Thanks for your help and assistance.

March 17, 2011, 1:00 p.m., CDT.  Wild Bill of Wild Ramblings blog has opined it may be a redhead duck.  The short bill of this duck indicates something other than a Canvasback.

Tentatively a Canvasback.


Filed under Canvasback, Ducks

11 responses to “Typing duck in flight

  1. Caralee Woods

    Hi Jack,
    Here is a story you might like. It’s kind of sad, but also a little funny since it’s just something that happens in nature. When we were still in Fort Worth by the lake, out in the woods in the back our dog Max was looking up in a tree and barking. We investigated, and it seems that a migrating duck had died in flight and just dropped from the sky. I guess that happens! There the duck was, draped in the crotch of some limbs. We gave it a decent burial, but still laugh not because the duck died, but that we never thought about that happening to some of them during their long flight. Sorry, everyone, if this story is a downer. I love animals, but have long since had to accept the circle of life after burying so many of them.

    • Hi Caralee,
      No, it’s sad, but it happens. The duck had died in flight. Max was always finding things in the back woods. “Here’s a cookie, now drop that possum, Max.” He was so proud of that possum, but, boy, did it stink. I’ve gotten attached to the pond (cow tank) here and the ducks upon it. I’ve seen ducks also down in the creek bottom, paddling on pools of water that seep from the pasture and lay in the shade when the flow stops in mid-summer. The circle of life, yes, gotta get along with it because we all have to do it. Thanks, Caralee.

  2. Jack,
    It’s hard to tell because the photo is of a duck in motion, but the bill looks too short for a canvas back to me. I’d guess it was a redhead duck. Also has short tail feathers. I’ll be interested in what others have to say. We have both up here and at a glance they are hard to tell apart.

    • Bill: Yes, hard to tell and I can’t separate all the factors out with duck-in-flight either. The duck’s bill is a factor in the canvas back and it appears short to me too. The redhead was on my list to choose, but I backed off of that because of the predominate white. It’s good they are flighty, but it’s hard on identifying. I’ll be interested if others have an opinion. It may have to rest as U.D., unidentified duck. I had not posted anything and this was on my desk, so I put it up. I still have much to say about your H2O.

  3. Caralee Woods

    Here in Utah I’ve heard that many a fight has broken out between birders over whether what they saw was a Cooper’s Hawk (fairly common) or a Sharp-Shinned Hawk (less common). We have a hawk family who roosts high in a pine tree behind our house every year, and I get to watch them raise their fledglings and get to duck them while hanging clothes on the line, as they really don’t want me anywhere near! I seriously don’t want that beak on my head! But getting a photo in flight and proving what type hawk we have has proved very difficult. Here is a site discussing how hard it is to tell the difference (I know, this doesn’t have anything to do with ducks!): http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/AboutBirdsandFeeding/accipiterIDtable.htm

    • Caralee: Thank you for the link. Yes, I hear of those conflicts among birders. I pretty open to deep correction on ducks. I had intended to put up a duck blind for photographs last Fall, but you know what happened with horses, etc. I’ve not been able to definitely type any of the ducks on the cow tank! Oh, maybe a mallard, but that’s it. This post is my first attempt at typing. If you haven’t, go to Wild Ramblings and read Bill’s really great blog. He’s up north, close to Quebec and teaches ecology. I’ll go with his typing, but even he isn’t sure. We’ll see.

      Don’t you get hawks in your hair! Do you have a Peterson’s? I’ve a Peterson’s and the Audubon. Jeez! How I love the outdoors.

      • Caralee Woods

        Yes, I have a Peterson’s. But as you can see, the conflict continues on how to be sure what it is while it’s attacking you. They don’t exactly sit still so you can compare length of legs.

      • Yes, the conflict continues. Man with man, Caralee with hawk.

  4. Pingback: Widgeon flying | Sage to Meadow

  5. Well, Jack, I am going to suggest it is neither a Redhead or a Canvasback. My guess is a Gadwall. White belly/gray chest, black bill, yellow legs, tertials are a silvery gray. Also, they are year-round residents of northern Texas. I too think the Canvasback has too long a bill, while the Redhead has a blue bill.

    As for the Cooper’s/Sharpie debate, keep in mind that the Sharp-shinned is a surprisingly small bird. At 11″ it’s about the size of an American Robin!

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