Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Odd Ducks

I really like this Crested Saxony (?) Duck. She looks like she's wearing an old-fashioned hat.

We've all seen them. You go to the park and see what birders sometimes call "Park Ducks." The mutts of the duck world. They don't look like a Mallard . They look like mixes of something, but what? I wonder if they are really something other than a mutt when I see a bunch of ducks with the same weird characteristics showing up again and again. Well, here are several answers to what these odd ducks may be.

Crested Duck. Perhaps a crested Buff Duck. Not a tumor, but a "crest."

Some are domestic breeds. Some are hybrids of wild species. Some are hybrids of a wild species and a domestic breed of duck. And some are domestic breeds of ducks or mixes of several domestic breeds of duck. Very complicated. But worthwhile to know the domestic breeds so that you know the true rarities when you see them. I will be adding to this post as I see different looking ducks.

Crested Duck. Looks like a Crested Buff Duck.

Crested ducks are common in parks. They are a special domestic breed of duck. When I first started seeing them, I thought that there was some sort of epidemic of ducks with tumors. However, they are bred to have this little feathery puff of stuff on their heads. The ones who have imperfect crests sometimes end up in the park.

Hmmm. Not sure what this one is except a park duck hybrid of several domestic species.

Pekin Duck. No, not Peking Duck from a Chinese restaurant. The Pekin Duck is the well-known domestic duck bred from the wild Mallard .

Another Crested Duck with a crest that looks like a powder puff.

Runner Duck hybrid. Tall and sleek. Campbells is similar, but has a more angular chest.

Left to right: Runner Duck, Crested Duck, Pekin Duck, and another Crested Duck.

Probably a Rouen Hybrid behind the American Coot. Look at the belly on that duck. Not your average Mallard.

Compare with a normal Mallard .

Hybrid with a bibbed type of domestic duck like a Swedish.

Another Hybrid with a "bib."

Hybrid possibly with a Khaki Campbell .

A side view of the possible Khaki Campbell hybrid.

There is only one domestic duck that is not descended from the Mallard , and that is the Muscovy Duck. The wild Muscovy Duck is from Central and South America. It is large, has claws on its feet that allow it to grab tree branches and other perches. The wild version is black and the the domestic is white. There are many ducks that are both black and white and they are hybrids of the wild and domestic Muscovy Duck. See below.

Domestic Muscovy Duck--bred from Native American stock from Central and South America--not a Mallard off shoot.

Domestic mix--lots of black like the wild Muscovy.

Domestic Muscovy drinking from the gutter after a rain storm.

Muscovy Duck. Closer to the wild variety which is all black.

Sometimes other birds are mistaken for ducks.

Egyptian Goose. It is a small goose and not a duck at all. We have quite a few of them in Orange County. This one is in Tewinkle Park -- Costa Mesa.

American Coots are members of the rail family. Frequently mistaken for a duck. This is in Huntington Central Park. They have lobed, not webbed feet.

Double-crested Cormorant--an immature. Definitely not a duck. Dives and chases fish under water.

Double-crested Cormorants out of water. Lake Balboa.

Many people call birds that swim in ponds ducks whether they are or not. I have heard people call grebes, herons, and egrets ducks. In addition to other water birds and domestic ducks, there are many kinds of wild ducks that you may on occasion see in the park. Species of wild ducks such as American Wigeons or Mergansers of various kinds are not uncommon in Orange County.

Should you feed ducks and geese? This is a difficult question since adults and children love it so much. But the truth is that for the ducks, coots, and geese, the empty calories we feed them in bread, crackers, muffins, chips, and other processed foods are not good for them. So what if you went to the pet store or feed store and bought duck feed? Well, that would be healthier in some ways, but it leaves a few other problems. When there is a lot of food in one place, it can result in overpopulation and overcrowding. This can cause stress on the ducks and geese who then begin to fight one another. There is low quality food and animals health is at risk. Other animals may be attracted by the food like squirrels, mice, and rats. With the overpopulation, the animals spread disease among the domestic ducks and the wild ducks they come in contact with. It is also causes stress for the neighbors of the parks and ponds and can result in cruelty to the ducks and geese. I recently saw a young teen at Central Park kicking at the ducks and saying how he hated all these ducks. He had walked in from a house in the neighborhood to buy breakfast at Alice's. I did report him, but--with no excuses for cruelty--you can see how easy it is for people with emotional problems to react badly to high populations of ducks and geese near their homes. It is stressful to them as well as the birds. It is best to let ducks and geese find their own food and let their populations find a natural level. They may learn to fend for themselves if you let them.

Enjoy our local Orange County parks. Watch the ducks and birds. Walk and exercise. Rest on the benches. Just remember that feeding the ducks is not good for them. Take a picure or video instead.

Have you seen a weird duck you don't see here? Check out these interesting links.


Confusing Domestic Ducks from Cornell

Good article on confusing domestic ducks from Cornell University.


Good site on domestic duck breeds.

Omlet UK

Good site on domestic ducks from the UK.

10,000 Birds: Manky Mallards

Helpful listing of Mallard and Muscovy hybrids you might see at parks.

About Feeding Ducks and Geese

Abandoned Ducks and Geese

Long article with good information.

US Geological Survey: Should I feed the Ducks on My Lake?

Short and to the point.

Frequently Asked Question from Ducks Unlimited: What Do I Feed Ducks?

Short article with good facts.

Portland's Audubon Society: Please Don't Feed the Waterfowl

Very good article.

OC Birder Girl Links of Interest

Wild Ducks of Orange County

A listing of wild ducks found in Orange County California.


My post about Mallards includes some information on hybrids and odd ducks.

American Coot

My post about American Coots, a black bird with lobed feet often seen with ducks in local parks.

American Wigeon

My post on American Wigeons that are often seen with Mallards in parks.

Huntington Central Park

A local park with lakes and lots of ducks as well as other birds like herons and egets.

Mason Regional Park

A park in Irvine with a large lake and lots of ducks, grebes, and other birds.

Tewinkle Park

My post on Tewinkle Park which has a lake and lots of ducks and even an occasional Osprey.

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Shanti Perez said...

Hello. For the duck with the caption "Hmmm. Not sure what this one is except a park duck hybrid of several domestic species." I think it is a fawn and white runner. Also there is one similar with darker head that is under the heading Khaki Campbell hybrid, but I think that, too, is a fawn and white runner drake. If you go to my blog you will see photos of my fawn and white runners. They're not show quality type, but they look just like the ducks in some of your photos. :)

Orange County Birder Girl said...

Shanti, thank you so much for your comment. You seem to know your domestic ducks. The reason that I did not identify these ducks as runner ducks was the angular shape. Neither stood up straight up like the other runner ducks I had seen. Not being that familiar with domestic breeds, I may have been looking at the wrong thing. With your familiarity with domestic ducks, I am sure you must have a better eye than I do. Thanks again for your input. Enjoyed reading your blogs. Nice work.