What the duck?
February 8, 2011 12:54 PM   Subscribe

Mysterious duck is mysterious. Help me ID this bird!

This duck has been hanging out at a pond in Vancouver, BC like it ain't no thang, and I can't tell what he/she is. This will not stand.

Images via Flickr. Wish I had a better zoom, but I think you get the idea.

-Big blue bill with small black tip (not easily seen in the pics)
-Larger than a Mallard
-Orange legs
-Green/black head and tawny sides
-Curly-Q tail thingy, not unlike a Mallard

My bird guides and the web have been unhelpful. Please help me discern if this is a snowflake bird or if I'm just bad at birdwatching. Or both.
posted by wowbobwow to Science & Nature (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
That looks like a Mallard to me. It's friend (in the third pic) looks like one, too.
posted by po822000 at 1:01 PM on February 8, 2011

Response by poster: Yeah the other guy in the 3rd picture is a Mallard. I included it to show size difference but that didn't translate. Note the different bill shape and color.
posted by wowbobwow at 1:05 PM on February 8, 2011

That appears to be the offspring of a mallard and a shoveler duck. Ducks are quite happy to breed among species.
posted by mudpuppie at 1:10 PM on February 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

Mallards can also have blue bills.
posted by cabingirl at 1:14 PM on February 8, 2011

Best answer: Ducks are...what's the word...promiscuous. I believe what you have here is a mallard crossed with some other kind of duck, possibly a domestic breed. I used to bird in a place that attracted a ton of wild ducks, and there were always a few that looked like they were some kind of hybrid. If you google "mallard cross" or "mallard hybrid" you might find your duck. The bill looks a little pintail-ish, or maybe shoveler-ish.

On preview, what mudpuppie said.
posted by rtha at 1:15 PM on February 8, 2011

Response by poster: Right you are. Must be a hybrid. Vancouver seems to have a lot of them.
posted by wowbobwow at 1:19 PM on February 8, 2011

Response by poster: And this very bird has been photographed before, it looks like.
posted by wowbobwow at 1:25 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're not bad at birdwatching - that's not a regular species of duck! I would have immediately pegged it a domestic x wild Mallard cross, but for the blue bill. That might suggest a Mallard x unknown species (hybrid), or a mutation. In Canada, a 'curly-Q' tail almost always indicates that one parent is a Mallard, though.

Weird waterfowl are actually pretty common, due to many species' willingness to hybridize with each other and/or domestic ducks. The parentage of some hybrids is impossible to tell by sight. Here's a link that does a good job of explaining the kinds of strange critters a waterfowl-watcher might come across:


Hope this helps!
posted by Kibby at 1:25 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Okay, after viewing the 1:25 pic, my vote is Mallard x (Greater?) Scaup. But it's just a guess.
posted by Kibby at 1:29 PM on February 8, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks, Kibby, et al! :) It just didn't occur to me that it might be a hybrid. I have a tendency to leap to outlandish conclusions when I can't ID a bird; ie: wow, maybe it's an accidental or displaced migrant. Call it birder's delusional syndrome.

We just moved here from the East Coast, so I'm seeing all kinds of crazy new things. We have a Varied Thrush that hangs in our neighborhood, and I about 'asploded when I saw it.
posted by wowbobwow at 1:38 PM on February 8, 2011

Mallards especially are prone to be "citified" into weird morphs. My money is on a cross with a domestic duck rather than a different wild species like Redhead.

Varied Thrushes are great...always loved that they had one perched and singing at the beginning of the credits for Twin Peaks
posted by mcstayinskool at 1:58 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah that's really not a mallard bill. So weird because otherwise it's totally a mallard. Ducks hybridize very easily so it could be a Mallard/Shoveller hybrid?
posted by hydrobatidae at 2:06 PM on February 8, 2011

It looks kind of like a Khaki Campbell.
posted by Logic Sheep at 6:30 PM on February 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

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