Reader’s wildlife video

Tara Tanaka (Vimeo page here, Flickr page here, and YouTube channel here) spotted an unusual wood duck (Aix sponsa) on her property. Having traits of both males and females, it appears to be either a hermaphrodite or a gynandromorph. Watch her video below and make your guesses. In the video’s notes below (indented), Tara reports that birders have solved the mystery, and it will be revealed later. I’ll also reveal it on this thread, so subscribe if you want to know. In the meantime, guess.  I hope the professionals reveal, at the same time, the duck’s preferred pronoun.

In mid-June I was walking through the living room, and, as I’ve done thousands of times before, stopped to scan our backyard swamp to see which birds and other wildlife were visible. Approximately 300’ away, one Wood Duck in particular caught my eye. I pointed our spotting scope at the duck for a better look, and I could see big white eye rings that are characteristic of an adult female, but I also saw a very prominent crest – characteristic of an adult male, and it appeared to be a darker shade of the forest green that females have on the top of their heads rather than the usual emerald green with navy tones of a male Wood Duck.

The body plumage was most like that of a male, but each of the many patterns and colors was more muted. The eyes were clearly those of a female – dark with large distinctive white eye rings and bright yellow skin right around the eyes – nothing like the bright red eyes and skin and very visible pupils of a male. The beak was dark like a female’s, not yellow, orange-red, white and black like a male’s, but the breast was that of a male. The cheeks were black speckled with white – not like those of a female or a male, and although there were white crescents on the face, they weren’t as distinct as those of an adult male. What was this duck? A male? A female? Some combination? I reached out to Ted Floyd at Birding to see if he could help me solve the mystery. Ted called in an expert on plumages, Peter Pyle, and he will reveal the answer to this mystery later this year in an issue of Birding magazine (a publication of the American Birding Association, aba.org).

Be sure to click on the Vimeo site and watch the video on large screen and high definition. The Mystery Duck is second from left. Like mallards, Wood Ducks dabble and can take off without a run, but they’re not formally considered “dabbling ducks”.

10 Comments

  1. Michael Fisher
    Posted July 24, 2018 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    Hybrid drake wood duck

    Hybrid of what? I dunno what’s available in the complex disco mating duckiverse.

  2. Mike McCants
    Posted July 24, 2018 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    Google BBC – “bilateral gynandromorphs”

  3. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted July 24, 2018 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    I don’t favor gynandromorph since the patterns are symmetrical. So the only other option I know is some sort of hormonal imbalance leading to an intersex condition.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted July 24, 2018 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      Mark. Don’t keep us on tenterhooks – where’s the 5th turtle sir?

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted July 24, 2018 at 11:17 am | Permalink

        Hmmm… I have a cunning plan….

        • Posted July 24, 2018 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

          … you said, “get the door” …

  4. Christopher
    Posted July 24, 2018 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    My first thought was a drake in eclipse, but the eye ring, I’m not sure about that.

  5. rickflick
    Posted July 24, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    A comment on the Vimeo post suggests a female that lost it’s (only one per customer(to lighten the flight load?)) ovary. Sounds plausible.

  6. Posted July 24, 2018 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    But does it want to be called a ‘duck’, or a ‘drake’ or a ‘druck’, or maybe mr/ms/mz squiggle?

    rz

  7. allison
    Posted July 24, 2018 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    A transgander specimen?


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