Boots and ducks

It’s finally boot weather, so I broke out one of my fanciest pairs: hand-tooled cowhide made by Falconhead of El Paso. Had I not found these on eBay, I couldn’t have afforded them: (I probably posted these before):

And the faux Honey and her boyfriend disappeared from the pond during our big thunderstorm. Before they left I got a decent photo, and could see her beak markings. They don’t seem to me to resemble the ones of the real Honey (at bottom). Or do they? See the enlargements at bottom. Readers, please help me out!

Real Honey:

COMPARISON:

New duck (greatly enlarged from above):

Honey. (The more I look at these, the more the bill stippling looks the same. But maybe it’s confirmation bias.)

Vote (once) in this poll:

65 Comments

  1. Randy schenck
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    I voted no but must say, If it quacks like a duck…

    • Les Faby
      Posted October 16, 2017 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      LOL.

  2. GBJames
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    My vote is in. The tally is tied but the sample is as small as they get.

  3. Jeff Rankin
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Not the same bill. Clearly a honey wannabe.

  4. bbenzon
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    Looked the same to me, but I don’t know diddly about duck bills.

  5. darrelle
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    I’m pretty sure that is Honey. There are some distinctive patterns on both bills that are identical. The lighting is quite different and may confuse things a bit but there are at least 2 or 3 distinctive marks that clearly match. The odds of these markings matching from two different ducks seems excruciatingly unlikely.

    • Posted October 16, 2017 at 7:30 am | Permalink

      Yes, that’s what I think, but of course I’m biased. The blotching patterns seem very much the same. If this is true, that means she came back with her boyfriend!

      • darrelle
        Posted October 16, 2017 at 7:32 am | Permalink

        Bringing the new boyfriend back home to meet the parent!

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted October 16, 2017 at 8:07 am | Permalink

          If it’s Honey, she put on some nice blue bill makeup for her new beau.

      • dabertini
        Posted October 16, 2017 at 7:37 am | Permalink

        Yes, but she did not reply to your whistle. Which means, if it is the same duck, she prefers the whistle of another male. Say it ain’t so.

        • Posted October 16, 2017 at 8:28 am | Permalink

          Agreed – different ducks. We would expect a Pavlovian reaction…

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted October 16, 2017 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      I think it’s Honey too. The lighting is different, but comparing several points of the actual markings, they look the same.

    • Posted October 16, 2017 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      I voted no, but on deeper examination, I think the differences are due to lighting.

  6. Blue
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    O, mGaaaawdess, they are g o r g e o u s … …
    The BOOTS !

    ( kinda so all o’the ducklets, too, )

    but those boots: my, my, … … my, my, my !

    Blue

    • Kiwi Dave
      Posted October 16, 2017 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      But are those boots comfortable for walking any distance? Those soles look tough on the feet. Are they easy to clean?

  7. Posted October 16, 2017 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    What you need here is falsification, i.e. compare with bill of other ducks to see if they look similar and to assess if such a pattern is common enough.

    I know virtually nothing of Mallards. Maybe all Chicago ducks have similar bills, maybe they are all different. Maybe Honey’s bill pattern is common. I don’t know.

    I looked at a few on and they looked different from those two, and these two look somewhat similar. The shape is alike, just one more washed out.

    • Posted October 16, 2017 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      No, because I have photos of the other side of Honey’s bill, which is very different.

      • Posted October 16, 2017 at 9:34 am | Permalink

        I was wondering that too. In that case I think this was indeed Honey, torn between two lovers…

        • Michieux
          Posted October 16, 2017 at 10:48 am | Permalink

          Torn between two llamas, feeling like a mule…

          (Sorry!)

  8. Mike
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Not the same Duck, those Boots are great,Had a pair that lasted for years until they couldn,t be worn any more.

  9. peter
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 7:32 am | Permalink

    Not Honey: the black roundish spot nearu the feathers is in a slightly different place, and the yellowish ‘mountain peak’ pattern near the rim is different,

  10. peter
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    The feather colouring of the eye-stripe seems more set-off against the background in the new duck.

  11. busterggi
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    That’s Honey all right. Don’t believe all those no voters.

  12. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    I voted no but I am having doubts now

    • Christopher
      Posted October 16, 2017 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      Me too. It was tough to decide. Can anyone confirm or deny that duck bill coloration remains stable throughout the year? Perhaps a young eager grad student should be put on the case of the disappearing duck, or maybe next year some leg banding just to be safe.

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    What’s it matter?

    A rose by any other bill stippling would smell as … duck-like?

    As your boy Steve Stills would say, love the one your with.

    • Posted October 16, 2017 at 8:18 am | Permalink

      You know why it matters. She’s my duck and I helped her bring her babies up.

      • Randy schenck
        Posted October 16, 2017 at 8:42 am | Permalink

        Does not nurture kinship apply here.

  14. David Harper
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    There’s a fascinating research project here. I already have a title for our cover article in Nature magazine: “The Accuracy of Crowd-Sourcing in Duck Identification by Bill Pattern Matching”. All we have to do now is get a research grant. And ducks. Lots of ducks. I nominate PCC(E) as Official Duck Wrangler for the project.

  15. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    I voted ‘no’ but I am a bit unsure.

    Maybe the scattered spotting pattern of a youthful ducks bill can fill in with a more contiguous color? I spent some time in PowerPoint, matching the two bills for size and angle, and super-imposing one on the other to see if the colors match. I gotta say the match is pretty good, down to some details even, if the spotting can merge together over time. But I also compared the bills to female mallards on the internet. There is variation, but I found at least one that is pretty close to the Mystery Duck. So some matching could be a coincidence.
    And Honey should know you! That should carry some weight. I… I don’t know for sure.

  16. Hempenstein
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    In one sense I built my career on pattern recognition (peptide maps and later amino acid sequence comparisons), but without some idea of the range of bill patterns it’s hard to say. Basically as Aneris said @ 7 above.

    So I Google Imaged for female mallard bill and came up with things like this. And on that basis I’d say this was Honey. Strange she didn’t come for eats, tho.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted October 16, 2017 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      You don’t feel hungry when you’re with the one you love! Well, I don’t anyway.

      She turned her head to Jerry’s whistle and the drake didn’t, so I reckon that says something.

  17. alexandra Moffat
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    They look the same to me!!!! I followed the line of the dark against the lighter and they seemed similar enough to be a match –

  18. Bruce Lyon
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Same bird! I would bet a bottle of single malt whisky on it and I only make whiskey bets when I am certain; otherwise it is a beer bet. Bird beaks can change colors pretty quickly (‘dynamic’ coloration unlike the more ‘static’ situation for plumage color. There are a couple of pigment spots that are identical and the latest photo has those markings while other areas simply got darker.

  19. Posted October 16, 2017 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Same duck.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted October 16, 2017 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      I dunno. This looks like one for the forensic team at CSI: Duckpond, Chicago.

    • Posted October 16, 2017 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      It is the same duck! After looking at photos of many female mallard bills, none of them look remotely like these two.

      • Michieux
        Posted October 16, 2017 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        I reckon it’s Honey. The area directly next to her head looks almost identical in each photo.

      • Posted October 16, 2017 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

        That’s what I’m thinking I need before I decide….. more data!

    • GBJames
      Posted October 16, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      That was how I voted.

    • Peter
      Posted October 16, 2017 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      Not the same duck. Honey has a lighter area below the nostril that the new duck lacks

  20. Nobody Special
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    I voted ‘No’ based not on markings which probably change through time, but on the shape of the nostril.

    • Jeannie Hess
      Posted October 16, 2017 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      agree

  21. Posted October 16, 2017 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Honey look alike has lighter-colored feathers around throat. No.

    • Posted October 16, 2017 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      Keep in mind that (1) Honey is soaking wet and “New Duck” is dry, and (2) lighting conditions aren’t necessarily the same for both photos.

      • Posted October 16, 2017 at 10:36 am | Permalink

        Yeah, you’re right. Same bill pattern in the same pond–what are the odds? Must be Honey with a new honey. The cycle of life will go on.

  22. Posted October 16, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    They both seems to have the “motorcycle pursued by a groundhog” pattern on its bill, therefore my veredict is “definitely maybe”.

  23. Posted October 16, 2017 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    I love the boots. Reminds me of home and my dad…El Paso was home for 18 years.

  24. Mark R.
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Vote is in…

    Love them boots! Do you check eBay often for cowboy boots or did you just get lucky? I love eBay myself, and have found many great deals.

    • Posted October 16, 2017 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      I used to check daily but now I’m full up with boots and don’t check any more. But before I stopped buying them, I got some absolutely fantastic deals.

      • sgo
        Posted October 16, 2017 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        Great boots. I check every now and then for them on ebay (having finally figured out my size), but am still at a bit of a loss as to what I should be looking for (note to self: falconhead). There are many to be found there but I don’t really know which “brands” (if I can call them that. Names?) to look for …

        • Posted October 16, 2017 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

          Email me and I’ll give you several names you should be searching for.

  25. Randy schenck
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    I think this calls for a facial recognition device to solve this mystery. Maybe they have this at O’hare so just run the duck over for a check each time she shows up.

  26. Posted October 16, 2017 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    The marking at the base of the bill, where the bill meets the head is different and markings going from the eye and under the eye are to me , not the same.

  27. Liz
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Honey’s bill has many blackish spots and the new duck’s bill has one blackish patch. I would say no but I’m not sure if the pattern gets darker over time.

  28. Posted October 16, 2017 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Had some time at lunch so I took out my handy dandy ruler and made a series of measurements of anatomical features on both ducks. For example, I measured width of the gap in the splotch at the back of the beaks on both ducks. I measured the lengths of the long splotch at the front. I measured distances between a point not he edges of the eyes and the nostrils to various points on the beak and the head. Things like that. In total, 10 measurement on both ducks. I made a matrix of these data.

    I then measured the width of both birds eyes and nostrils. I then normalized all the other metrics data in the matrix to each of these.

    I then plotted the ratios of both and I find

    ….the photos are of the same duck.

    One caveat – one of the metrics I used is an outlier. The distance between the anterior end of the eye and the posterior edge of the nostrils differs by ~10-15% (ratios are 3.5 for one bird and 3.9 for the other) while none of the other measurements varying by more than 3%. I take this to reflect a slight difference in the angle the photos were taken.

    Or maybe measurement error. I was nomming a Cuban sammich, so I may have been deliciously distracted when I made that measurement.

    • Posted October 16, 2017 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

      All of this could have been avoided had PCC bothered to obtain DNA samples from both ducks.

  29. MarkMyWords
    Posted October 16, 2017 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    Because I am channeling the religiously inclined today, I voted “yes”. Because I want it to be true, it has to be true.

  30. Posted October 16, 2017 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

    A duck expert has weighed in and said that these are definitely the same duck. Thanks to the expert and Mikeyc’s analysis above, I am confident that it is indeed Honey.

    MY DUCK IS BACK! She was gone today, but now she knows the way home.

    • Posted October 16, 2017 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

      Congratulations!!! She clearly feels a strong connection to you. She will not forget.

  31. Matthew North
    Posted October 17, 2017 at 5:01 am | Permalink

    I think it’s the same duck. I’m looking at the outlines of the dark markings on the bill. Duck bill markings can slightly change color with time and wear but the general outline pretty much stays the same.

    Any Ornithologists out there to weigh in?

    There’s gotta be one who checks out Jerry’s blog.

  32. Matthew North
    Posted October 17, 2017 at 5:02 am | Permalink

    Oh, didn’t read Jerry’s above post.

    Congrats Jerry.

  33. Bob Barber
    Posted October 17, 2017 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    I voted, but, frankly, I have enough bills of my own.

  34. Posted October 17, 2017 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    Now *this* is an unusual use of human “image recognition software”!

  35. Nathan Pinkerton
    Posted October 19, 2017 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Granted, I am a Texas country boy that grew up on a ranch… but I am confused by the first sentence of your post… when is it ever NOT boot weather?

    Nice boots, Prof Ceiling Cat (emeritus)!

    Posted wearing a pair of custom (kinda have to buy custom when one wears a 13 AAA) chocolate brown calfskin with a walking heel and double stitch welts and a light yellow shaft, from Rios in Weslaco, TX


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