Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mallards and American Black Ducks

Yesterday morning, I decided to go grocery shopping early in the morning. It was Monday, which means that Tuesday, we needed a $10.00 bottle of wine for our $10.00 Tuesday posts. But the packie didn’t open until 9:00. I usually don’t worry when the packies open in the morning because I’m working! I had a half hour to kill, so I went over to Bass Rocks by Good Harbor Beach and ran into a raft of ducks. There were about fifteen Mallards, four American Black ducks and one Gadwall.

There are differences and similarities to ducks. Being able to tell the difference between the females can be important. With the Mallard and American Black Duck, it isn’t just distinguishing the females of the species, it is distinguishing the whole species.

They have brown mottled bodies, brown heads with black eye stripes. The have similar feeding and flocking behaviors. The American Black Duck can easily be passed up as just additional Mallard hens.

In this first photo, we can start to see the difference between the Mallard Hen and the two American Black Ducks. The Mallard is lighter, has much more white in the tips of the feathers and has an orange colored bill.

The Black Ducks are much darker, have less white in the feather tips and less white in the tail feathers. The forward Black duck has an olive green bill, designating it as female and the trailing Black Duck’s bill is more yellow, making him the drake.

© 2009 ShootingMyUniverse

We see the brown head with the black eye stripe. In flight, the Mallard has blue secondary feathers, but they are barred with white. Again we can see the body is more buff.
© 2009 ShootingMyUniverse

With the black duck, we see the brown head with the black eye stripe. In flight, the Black duck has blue secondary feathers, but lacks the white banding. The underside is also white.
© 2009 ShootingMyUniverse

This may also be seen when the female is displaying here blue marks when on land or floating.
© 2009 ShootingMyUniverse

The last bit of importance is that they do interbreed. As a word of encouragement, I witnessed two Mallard pairs courting and mating while doing this shoot. Spring is coming, I promise.

Post script: If you check Kim’s post today, the third picture down shows an American Black Duck photo with the wing bar exposed while floating. You can compare it with the picture above to see that when the ducks are floating or on land, you can still use the wing bars as a field mark.

5 comments:

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Excellent shot for comparison purposes Steve.

Kallen305 said...

Thanks for the comparison shots. I have such a hard time telling the difference between the two of them.

Nice shote of the duck getting ready to fly.

Kathy said...

Awww what sweet pictures. The last one is my favorite. LOL they look like a cute couple. Make sure you check back on them when the babies show up. Would love to see pictures of them.

Eve said...

Great lessons with wonderful photos Steve...glad you had the time to use.

HANNIBAL said...

Hi Steve!

Loved the education. Not ever knowing about black ducks, but curious, I now can take second looks for I.D. Thanx!

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