Saturday, September 21, 2013

Snow Goose--Chen caerulescens

Snow Goose has dark eyes, pinkish bill, and a prominent black "grin patch."

Snow Geese are rare, but they are regularly seen in Orange County because California and thus Orange County are on the migration route to their Canadian breeding grounds.

With the hungry, gluttonous ducks and coots feeding on handouts.  Kind of makes me sad.

Snow Geese are often seen in groups, but in the OC we often see then alone or with a few other Snow Geese.

Snow Goose swimming in a lake in a small neighborhood park.

Notice the black wing tips.

Notice the pink legs.

Notice the tint on the head.

What're you looking at?  Notice the yellowish coloring tinting the face.

Notice the very prominent black grin patch.

Differentiating Snow Geese from domestic, white geese

Larger Domestic Goose--Large, with Orange legs and bill.   Notice the large looking belly.   The Snow Goose would be smaller and have a smaller belly.    All white wings.

Orange eye ring, smaller light-colored grin patch. All white.  The Snow Goose has no orange eye ring, dark eyes, and a pink bill with a black grin patch.

Unlike the dark-eyed Snow Goose, the domestic goose has blue eyes.

Snow Geese and Ross's Geese

 Here, a Ross's Goose hangs out in a San Fernando Valley park with other geese.  Notice he has the same coloring as the Snow Goose, but the Ross's Goose is much smaller.  The Ross's Goose has no tinting on the head or neck.  Whiter overall head and neck than the Snow Goose.  The bill is much smaller proportionally than the Snow Goose, and can show a bit of green coloring at the base.   The Ross's Goose may have a much smaller and less obvious grin patch.   

The Snow Goose has a larger bill compared to the Ross's Goose, and a large, dark grin patch.  Unlike the domestic goose, the Snow Goose has dark eyes vs. the domestic's blue eyes.  The Snow Goose black wing tips unlike the white wings of the domestic goose.  The Snow Goose has a pink bill and legs unlike the orange bill and legs of the domestic goose.

OC Birder Girl Links

Wild Ducks of Orange County

Odd Ducks

Bird Walks and Nature Programs in and Near Orange County

Orange County Bird Check Lists

Herons, Egrets, and Bitterns of Orange County


All About Birds: Snow Goose

Detailed page about the Snow Goose. Although it is multiplying, it is still a rare bird in Orange County. Read all about the Snow Goose.

All About Birds:  Ross's Goose

Detailed page about the Ross's Goose.  Rare in Orange County.

Confusing Domestic Geese (and hybrids)

From Cornell. Some confusing geese.

Snow Geese Fuel up for Migration

Read more about Snow Geese.  

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Do Male Mallards Disappear in the Summer?

Mallard drake in flashy breeding plumage which he wears most of the year.  Notice the curl in his tail--although it is another sign you are looking at a drake--the curl often disappears during molting. 

The Mallard hen is brownish with an orange bill with black markings.

Group of summer Mallards.  Where are the drakes?

I was recently out birding, and another park goer and I began chatting.  When she found out I was a birder, she said she was perplexed about something.  She wondered were all the male Mallards had gone.  The only Mallards she seemed to see where groups of females.   I am frequently asked about the disappearance of Mallard males or drakes in the late summer months.  And it is true that if you look quickly at a group of Mallards at this time of year, it does seem that all the drakes have disappeared.

Female Mallard or hen.

But the answer is simple.  The drakes are still there, but incognito.  They are sporting what is called eclipse plumage.  During the summer after breeding season, drakes molt and drop their worn breeding plumage.  Their flashy feathers are temporarily replaced by drab, brown feathers that are very like, but not identical to the Mallard hen's usual plumage.  However, there are still small, but obvious differences between Mallard hens and drakes.  You can still spot the difference by observing the color of the bill and sometimes, but not always by a bit of green color still on the head of the drake.   And if it hasn't been dropped in the molt, you may spot the curly tail feathers of the drake.

Male Mallard or drake in eclipse plumage.  Note the yellowish bill .

The drake's breast is also a little warmer in color.  It is also a different pattern.  But it is the bill that stands out once you know the key.  The drake's yellow bill is always the same regardless of the change in plumage.  Although difficult to see in the picture above, the drake's bill has a small dot of black on the very tip. 

Female Mallard

Take a look at this hen in the picture above.

Female Mallard or hen--note the black and orange bill.

The hens in both pictures are a patterned, dull brown in color   Notice that their bills are  orange with a bit of black scattered over the top.  Some have a lot of black, and some have less, but all have orange and black on their bill.

 Group of Summer Mallards

So take a second look at that group of Mallards shown above.  I think you will find it is actually a co-ed group.  It won't be long before the drakes are sporting fresh, brilliant breeding plumage.  

Male Mallard in the foreground.  Female Mallards in the background and left.

It is a subtle, but obvious difference.  Once you know the difference, you will have little difficulty telling a Mallard drake from a hen.   

Male Mallard aka drake on the left.  Female Mallard aka hen on the right.

Have a great time birding in Orange County! 



OC Birder Girl Links

Mallards--Anas platyrhynchos

My post all about Mallards, their appearance, habits, and oddities.

The Wild Ducks of Orange County

My post showing wild ducks in Orange County and links to posts about them.


Odd Ducks

Do you ever see truly strange-looking ducks around the parks and wildlife areas of Orange County?  See if this post explains what you are seeing.  

Wood Duck or Mandarin Duck?

Are confused by these two species?  Especially the females?  Check out my post on telling the difference between Wood Ducks and Mandarin Ducks.