September 2018 Photo Quiz

Click photo to enlarge.

Ah, back to a flying bird; much better than those pesky facing-away sparrows. The short, wide, and fairly flat bill and longish, narrow wings do a pretty good at ruling virtually all ABA-Area bird families out, except for the Anatidae. I am certain that many of us do not particularly care for the viewing angle on this beastie. However, waterfowl are bursting with a variety of plumage and shape characters that enable ID in a variety of less-than-stellar viewing conditions.

Once among the waterfowl, the combination of the bird’s short neck and the underparts color and pattern rules out the various geese and swans. Our bird’s long tail rules out most of the diving ducks, with only the cavity-nesting species having tails even approaching this length. (I surmise that cavity nesters need more and better steering ability, hence their longer tails than found on other diving ducks.) The three species of Bucephala -- goldeneyes, Bufflehead – have either entirely dark underwings (the former) or with just a thin, but distinct, stripe down the underwing coverts (latter). Wing pattern also rules out the big mergansers, as the white of their underwings extends into the primary coverts. Adult male Smew have entirely white underparts, and other plumages sport an obvious chin patch that our bird lacks. Hooded Merganser – the last of the diving-duck possibilities – has a similar wing pattern, but, like all mergansers, has a very narrow bill. That means that we’re left with only the 18 ABA-Area species of dabbling ducks.

Please submit the correct Common or English name exactly as it appears in the ABA Checklist.

What species is this?