Friday, January 22, 2010

Strange Waterfowl

Northern Shovelers are a common overwintering waterfowl in Prospect Park, so I rarely pay them much attention. It took the fresh, unjaded eyes of my friend Heydi to point out that one looked very different.

At first we thought that it was a hybrid; maybe a cross between a Northern Shoveler and Blue-winged Teal. It has the overall shape of a shoveler and the distinctive large, spatulate bill. Unlike the Northern Shoveler, but similar to a Blue-winged Teal, it has a white, vertical patch on the front of its face. The Northern Shoveler also has a clean, white breast. This bird has an off-white breast with a fine, dark hatch pattern. The pattern also extends to its red flanks.

I looked online for information on shoveler x teal hybrids and found a few websites with photographs of similar looking birds. Most were listed as Northern Shoveler / Blue-winged Teal hybrids. Looking up information on non-North American species of shovelers I discovered that there is an Australasian Shoveler - Anas rhynchotis. To my eye, it seems that the bird in Prospect Park is not a hybrid, but an Australasian Shoveler. I don't think that there is anyway to prove that this bird flew from Australia to Brooklyn and a more plausible explanation is that it escaped from a zoo or other private collection. It does make you wonder, though, because stranger vagrants have appeared within the borders of New York City from very distant lands.

Here's a video of the Prospect Park duck.

video

4 comments:

John said...

That is a weird bird. I would lean towards hybrid as an explanation, but an escaped Australasian Shoveler is very well possible.

Starz723 said...

Escapee is possible. Bronx Zoo? Where else could it have possibly come from?

I had a friend in Florida who had so many rarities in her backyard pond when one of those big hurricanes hit and the Parrot Jungle aviary got destroyed.
Marge

Kevin said...

The 4th Ed. of the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of N. America states that the male "in early fall has a white crescent on each side of its face, like the Blue-winged Teal" and then gives a corresponding depiction of this.

Rob Jett said...

Wrong time of year for a juvenile bird. Other plumage differences are head color, plus, Nat. Geo. doesn't show the body, which looks a lot like the female plumage.

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