Ring-necked Duck in Staffordshire

An eclipse drake Ring-necked Duck was discovered by Westport regular Nick Smith on August 22nd 2009. It was present with a small number of Tufted Ducks and often showed well. However, due to the presence of some 'tufts' on the bird's crown, some observers have cast doubt over the bird's parentage. In all other respects it displays the full suite of features expected for the species, including a typical wing pattern. The wing pattern is an important feature of aythya identification when attempting to establish whether a particular individual is of mixed parentage, but the Westport bird ticks all the correct boxes in this respect.

Investigations have revealed pictures of drake Ring-necked Ducks in the USA at this time of the year with a similar state of headdress to the Westport bird. Drakes in full plumage have a noticeably peaked crown appearance, but this is made up of excess feathering and when caught in the wind can often appear to be fairly 'wispy' in appearance. When a bird is in moult, as the Westport bird clearly is, some remnants of the crest will naturally form small tufts. On this side of the Atlantic, most Ring-necked Duck records occur during the winter and spring months so it is fairly unusual to experience a bird like the Westport individual.

The following images, kindly supplied by Steve Seal, show all the salient features of this educational individual.

Plate 1: drake Ring-necked Duck at Westport Lake

Ring-necked Ducks typically have a more prominent tail than Tufted Ducks but this individual has lost a significant amount of it's tail.

Plate 2: drake Ring-necked Duck at Westport Lake

The vertical whitish 'spur' on the fore-flank is shown well in this picture.

Plate 3: drake Ring-necked Duck at Westport Lake

Although the bird is in heavy head moult it is interesting to note how the pale area on the sides of the neck appear to 'ghost' the head pattern of female/immature birds. The thin white line around the bill base is not always apparent on this bird, but is so in this picture. 

Plate 4: drake Ring-necked Duck at Westport Lake

The overall structure of the bird is captured well in this picture. Note the peaked crown, steep forehead and the rather short, compact body.

Plate 5: drake Ring-necked Duck at Westport Lake

The overall compact structure of the bird is also shown well in this picture. Also note bill shape; relatively long and narrow, with a steep profile and then noticeably flatter towards the tip with a well defined nail 'droop'.

Plate 6: drake Ring-necked Duck at Westport Lake

This bird is currently experiencing a few 'bad hair days' but will hopefully remain on site long enough to complete it's moult.

Plate 7: drake Ring-necked Duck (rear bird) at Westport Lake with drake Tufted Duck

The whitish 'spur' on the fore-flank contrasting with the remaining grey flanks is particularly evident in this picture as well as the peaked crown appearance.

Plate 8: drake Ring-necked Duck (rear bird) at Westport Lake with drake Tufted Duck

This picture of the bird with wings spread confirms the greyish cast to the under-wings with a diffuse darker trailing edge. Drake Tufted Ducks display a whiter under-wing with a more well defined black trailing edge.

Plate 9: drake Ring-necked Duck at Westport Lake

This superb shot of the bird with wings spread displays the classic wing pattern of a drake Ring-necked Duck. Note the pale brown/grey primary bar coupled with the contrasting plain grey secondary bar. Despite the slightly ragged condition of the flight feathers, the white trailing edge of the secondaries is still fairly intact with the dark inner bar also evident.

A drake Tufted Duck would show a pure white secondary bar becoming gradually darker on the primary bar. The trailing edge to the whole wing would be black. It seems difficult to imagine a hybrid between the two species showing the wing pattern of the Westport bird.


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