Help with ID on a duck please

To: Robert Inglis <>, Birding-Aus <>
Subject: Help with ID on a duck please
From: Nikolas Haass <>
Date: Thu, 3 May 2012 17:00:02 -0700 (PDT)
Hi all,

I am also one of these Northern Hemispherians, who have seen tens of thousands 
of Northern Pintails in Europe, North America, Africa and Asia. Confirming 
others, neither jizz, plumage colour nor bare part colour "make it" a Northern 
Pintail or any of the other pintails. The jizz clearly indicates one of the 
teals - the only ID contenders are Grey Teal, Sunda Teal or Chestnut Teal and - 
if you want to stretch it - Cape Teal. To me the bird still looks like a Grey 
The infamous "H" word is however not so infamous in Anas, Aythya, Anser and 
Branta. However, most Northern Hemisphere hybrid combinations appear to be 
well-studied and I cannot find any that looks that similar to Grey Teal as 
David's bird. As so often, the Southern Hemisphere is not so well covered in 
many studies. So, I still can't rule out a hybrid 100%. But again, I still 
think it is a Grey Teal.



Nikolas Haass

Sydney, NSW

 From: Robert Inglis <>
To: Birding-Aus <> 
Sent: Thursday, May 3, 2012 9:18 PM
Subject: Re: [Birding-Aus] Help with ID on a duck please
With reference to David Taylor’s very interesting question about the ‘strange’ 
duck he saw on the University of Queensland campus out there at Gatton in the 
Lockyer Valley in SE Queensland (an area which was devastated by, unprecedented 
in white man’s time, floods last year) I would like to ask a question with the 
following context in mind.

Although I have been birdwatching for nearly 40 years I have never come to 
grips with moult. Although I have been photographing birds for most of that 
time and some of the most expert people in Australia have been very patiently 
trying to educate me in the understanding of moult I seem to be too dumb (or 
too old) to take it all in. I’m tempted to give those people names but I really 
shouldn't embarrass them so I won’t. But I say to them “Don’t give up.” I love 
youse all.

The question is:
Why is David Taylor’s ‘strange’ bird not a Northern Pintail female undergoing 
moult of the primaries and, possibly, the secondaries – as has been suggested?
Is it because it is in Queensland? (Oh, that is facetious, Bob and should be 
struck from the records).

I have not yet seen a pintail of any description so I am clutching at straws 
here but I have consulted “Wildfowl” by Steve Madge and Hilary Burn as well as 
HANZAB (we all know what that is, don’t we?). Having done so it seems to me 
that there is a possibility, small though it might be, that David, et all, has 
found something very ‘interesting’.

Why isn’t David’s bird a Northern Pintail female undergoing moult of the 
primaries and, as it has been suggested, the secondaries?

In asking this question, I am hoping that those birders who have had extensive 
experience with observing Northern Pintails will respond. After all, the 
majority of Australian birdwatchers with experience of northern hemisphere 
birds come from...............the northern hemisphere. At least that is my 
observation. A few Australian boundary-ed birdwatchers probably only see one or 
two Northern Pintails in their entire life. As I said, I haven’t seen any and I 
confine my observations to the mainland of Australia.

I realize the shortcomings of digital photography (having been involved with it 
for 11 years) and therefore I understand why David’s images vary in the colours 
of the plumage of this bird but, understanding those technicalities, I can see, 
as David saw, that this bird is ‘different’ to the average Grey Teal. My 
initial reaction was that it is always wise to not look for a rarity and to 
simply look for an aberration when observing something which looks ‘different’. 
My experience at that location is that the common ducks include Grey Teal so 
that is what I initially advised David . However, further consideration 
encouraged me to suggest that this bird might, only might, be something else.
As I read it, David’s bird might have a rufous wash over the head and the iris 
might be somewhat different in colour to that of Grey Teal. If so that could 
indicate Northern Pintail female.
Not Northern Pintail juvenile as the plumage is quite different.

In the course of education (of me in particular) I would like those birders who 
have had experience with Northern Pintail females (from an observer’s point of 
view) to come forward and voice an opinion.
Is that too much to ask?

Please understand that I am not being critical of anyone but simply wanting to 
ensure that an opportunity is not missed.
I don’t mind if I am proven to be way of track here.

A ‘proverb’ from the latest book I am reading “In advising a friend, seek to 
help, not please”. (The good Book – a secular bible- by AC Grayling)

Bob Inglis
Sandstone Point
Qld (my new and expanded website – still a work in 
progress so please forgive the errors and omissions)


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