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Saturday, December 11, 2004

Scaup at Woodwalton Fen

© Kevin Du Rose

© Katie Fuller

This bird is interesting! At first glance, it appears to be a female Scaup, but a closer look reveals it has quite a lot of black on its bill - suggesting Tufted Duck? At some angles, the bird's mantle also looks a bit darker than perhaps it should. The size and shape all look right for Scaup, however.

John Oates commented: "That looks like a Scaup to me. The black on the bill looks OK - the nail when viewed head on is quite broad, so it does look as though there is a lot of black there. The plumage, size and shape seem Scaup-like. I bet you could find birds like this quite easily in a flock up north somewhere."

Mark Hawkes says: "As John has pointed out, the black on the bill, although rather extensive, is OK for Scaup, because (if I recall correctly) juveniles tend to show more black than adults. Also the dark back, and notable ear-spot would also suggest juvenile. However, Aythya hybirds (and pure female Scaups) are always a lot easier to deal with in the field (as opposed to photos)."

Mark Ward reckons: "Looks like a first-winter female Scaup to me. A lot of people seem to forget that there is considerable variation within a species. Not every individual looks the same! The extent of black on the bill of pure-bred Aythya ducks is very variable and not a reliable feature for proving or disproving the ID of a bird alone (this bird does not have an excessive amount of black, anyway.
"It is a juvenile, based on the the dark mantle and brown flanks. Backed up by everything else on this bird: the nice large round head, larger size than Tufted, good, bright white blaze - there doesn't seem to be anything out of the ordinary with your bird. I agree with Mark Hawkes that it is best to see and judge hybrid ducks for yourself in the field to be sure, but I see no reason why this isn't a first-winter female Scaup."

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