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Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Staffordshire RING-NECKED DUCK

Presumed drake Ring-necked Duck, Westport Lake, Staffordshire
There have been doubts expressed over the identification of this individual from certain quarters and after receiving several enquiries I passed on the information to the UK400 Club wildfowl expert Keith Vinicombe for comment.
''Funnily enough I saw the photos of this on Surfbirds by Phil Jones and Steve Seal and also the comment by Phil about it possibly being a hybrid. I did wonder whether a controversy might be in the offing and I even thought about emailing Phil, but then I thought better of sticking my nose in on a bird that I hadn't even seen! I must admit that I'm becoming increasingly loath to comment on photographs of birds as they can be so misleading. However, with this one I feel confident that this is just a tatty moulting RING-NECKED DUCK.
Everything about it is spot-on and I find it hard to believe that a Ring-necked Duck x Tufted Duck hybrid would not show a few more pro-Tufted features. A particularly good point in its favour is the wing-stripe, which looks classic RND to me - Tufted x RND hybrids would be likely to have a whiter wing-stripe. I have certainly seen moulting male RNDs that look quite square-headed but, with your bird, the stumbling block is the tuft - but what people forget is that adult male RND has long rear crown feathering, which forms the peak (I'm sure some people think that the peak is formed by the actual shape of the head, ie by the bone of the skull, but that is not the case). The peak on a RND obviously performs the same sexual function as the tuft on a Tufted. Of course when this peak is moulted, the feathers will look scruffy as some of the old, long feathers will remain after others have been moulted. I'm sure that is what is happening with this bird. If you look at Phil's top image on Surfbirds and the one by Steven Seal, the little remaining 'tufts' aren't just on the rear of the crown, but down towards the nape as well. Given that Tufted's tuft comes straight out of the rear crown, then I can't see why a hybrid would show tufts further down''