Thursday, January 06, 2011

Unusual Mallards at Wreck Pond

Even common duck species may be interesting if you look at them closely. When Patrick and I were counting waterfowl at Wreck Pond as part of the Long Branch CBC on Saturday, we encountered a flock of about a hundred Mallards clustered together on the west side of the pond. Perhaps massing together like that helps keep them warm, or perhaps that side of the pond offered better protection from the wind. In the early morning sunlight, the Mallards looked especially pretty, especially when light caught the males' bright green heads at just the right angle. The females' brown streaking seemed a bit richer than normal as well. A wild male is pictured above, and a wild female is below.

Among the normal-looking wild Mallards were a few oddballs. First, two clearly domestic Mallards were standing in close proximity to each other. This type of domestic duck has the wild Mallard's green head, but has a white breast (instead of chestnut) and a browner back and flanks than the wild version. It also looks a little longer and seems to stand in a more upright position.

A third duck (pictured below) had the overall plumage pattern of a normal female, but the plumage was much lighter. I am not sure if this is a sign of leucism or another form of domestic duck. The relatively short bill makes me think it has a domestic origin, either as its own breed or perhaps a hybrid of domestic and wild ducks.