Posts Tagged ‘mallard hybrids’

A Ducky Family

Half-breed ducks at Springfield Park in Rowlett, Texas. — Photo by Pat Bean

When I first began bird watching, a flock of ducks like this  had me scrambling through my guidebooks over and over in my efforts to identify them. A seasoned birder finally took pity on me and explained that they were hybrids, half  mallard-and half something else, usually the white domestic ducks that hang about in civilized ponds.

“You won’t find them in any birding field guide, and the AOU (American Ornithological Union) discounts them as a legitimate bird species,” he said.  “And they can’t reproduce,” he said.

These days I recognize  such hybrids immediately.  And in my crazy mind, they speak to me about how life, in all of its forms, is constantly trying to renew itself.



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“Both the grand and the intimate aspects of nature can be revealed in the expressive photograph. Both can stir enduring affirmations and discoveries, and can surely help the spectator in his search for identification with the vast world of natural beauty and the wonder surrounding him. – Ansel Adams


Vermilion flycatcher: Unlike many flycatchers that look alike, there is no mistaking this species. -- Photo by Pat Bean


Bird Talk

I’ve always wanted to know the names of things, but I wasn’t exactly pathetic about the need until I took up birding back in 1999.

I came late to this addictive passion, suddenly being amazed at all the birds around me. Where once these flying creatures were invisible, as if existing in a parallel world with a curtain drawn between them and me, suddenly I was seeing them everywhere.

My fascination with birds can be annoying to non-birders. A shadow flicks across the landscape and I lose my place in a conversation as my eyes turn upward searching for the source.

I constantly scan the tops of utility poles looking for familiar profiles. The sight of a red-tailed hawk sitting atop one causes me to yell “stop” to the car driver. A rustle or movement of leaves and I am distracted from a task. No roadside pond goes unscanned. Well, you get the idea.


The unique profile of a hammerkop makes it a hard bird to misidentify. But you'll have to go to the African continent if you want to see one. -- Photo by Pat bean

But seeing a bird is not enough. I must know what bird it is.

Is that a crow or a raven was one of my first identification problems. The raven is larger but size, without a comparison, is not much help. So I learned that a crow’s tail is razor straight at the end, while a raven’s tail is wedge-shaped. Ravens also are the ones who suffer bad-hair days.

Many flycatchers, meanwhile, still puzzle me. Quite a few look almost exactly alike. A long look through a good scope, and knowing preferred ranges and habitats of each species, is necessary for identifying these birds.


You won't find this bird in any field guide. It's a mallard hybrid. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Knowing that you’re looking at a flycatcher is easy, however. One usually sees them sitting up straight on a branch. They fly out to catch an insect and then most return to the same branch to repeat the process. If I have long enough to watch, and a good field guide, sometimes I can even figure out whether it’s a dusky or a willow, or one of several other flycatchers showing off for me.

When I was first learning to bird, there was this one particular duck that completely stumped me. While I had a really good look at the creature, I couldn’t find it in my field guide. I finally gave up and asked one of my birding mentors, who immediately broke into laughter.

The duck in question was a mallard hybrid. Since then I’ve seen a lot of these unique, but sterile offspring. Mallards, it seems, are sluts.

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