Help with ID on a duck please

To: "'Robert Inglis'" <>, "'Birding-Aus'" <>
Subject: Help with ID on a duck please
From: "Philip Veerman" <>
Date: Fri, 4 May 2012 17:15:02 +1000
Hi Bob,

I suggest you are confusing two totally different issues. 

First you asked: About "the understanding of moult" and "I have been
birdwatching for nearly 40 years I have never come to grips with moult".
Well I would suggest you don't ask on this chatline, as it is too long to
expect people to type it all out for you. As indeed I think it is
conspicuous to notice that no one else has commented on that question to
help you. I would suggest you read up in any reasonable ornithology text
book, that should explain moult to you. I would not suggest a field guide,
as that is not usually the role of such a book. Note though that many ducks
(unlike most birds) will moult all their flight feathers together, rather
than in a progressive sequence. And this bird is clearly doing that. 

Second is the issue of the species identity of this one particular bird. Not
surprisingly there are several comments from other people on that. That it
is clearly moulting is hardly relevant to what species it is (unless of
course timing of moult fits one species and not another). I don't know
anything about Northern Pintail but take advice from others that do, and I
don't see any reason to invoke that suggestion at this stage. Not enough
there to show it is not a Grey Teal. Hybrid appearances are much harder to


-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of Robert Inglis
Sent: Thursday, 3 May 2012 9:18 PM
To: Birding-Aus
Subject: 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

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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