Sunday, January 4, 2009

Tufted Duck in Westbrook, Maine

I mean...what did I do?  What did I do to deserve all these awesome birds delivered to my doorstep?  Just days ago I gave thanks to the birding gods for my 2008 bounty of rare birds, thinking that last year's feast would mean this year's famine.  

Not so.  

After spending a beautiful morning birding Biddeford Pool I got an email (good lord, iPhone, what would I do without you?) reporting a possible Tufted Duck in the Portland-area city of Westbrook.  Yeah.  No big deal, just a duck that usually winters in the UK.  This is Maine, remember?

So I went up and there he was, right off Main Street.  Easy peasy, right?  Well maybe not.  There is some talk on the Maine Birding List about whether or not this bird is a pure Tufted or has hybridized with either a Ring-necked Duck or a Scaup.  I met my friend Doug at the site, and we did not see much evidence of hybridization aside from the shorter-than-expected tuft.  However, my new Kaufman Field Guide (thanks, Santa) specifically notes that tuft length is not a determining factor.  Likewise, pictures of Scaup/Tufted hybrids do not match, as our bird was completely lacking the back-barring shown in that photo and in the Sibley drawing.  

So, it seems that, for now, the bird may be a pure Tufted.  I have no previous experience with the species, but Doug and I (and others) had great looks and the bird in great light and did not see too much to dissuade us.  Doug has let me post some of the pictures he took, feel free to weigh in.

This final one is one of the two Barrow's Goldeneyes Doug and I found at the mouth of the Royal River in Yarmouth at the end of the day.  Good times all around.


John B. said...

Congratulations - what a good bird!

I don't see much in the shape or plumage patterns to indicate hybrid in that bird, but then again, I have no experience with the species at all. A tuft could always get pulled out, frayed, or be slow coming in. So I would hesitate to question the identification based on that alone.

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