Posts Tagged With: that bird is called what???

Ring-necked why?

Every birder in North American asks the same question: If the duck has a bright ring around its bill, why is it called Ring-necked?


I don’t see any ring there!

I’ve heard lots of theories – it’s a hunter’s bird-in-hand fieldmark, some other duck was already called Ring-necked – but no one seemed to know the truth. Until now!

In an article in Birding, the ABA journal, Rick Wright solves the mystery*. He dug through obscure volumes in dusty libraries until he found Edward Donovan’s early-1800s description of the type specimen, the bird from which the species description is derived, and discovered…

…nothing about the bill. The hard-to-see chestnut collar is the only good distinguishing mark. So what happened to Donovan’s duck’s bill? He painted and described the bird from a poultry market specimen, not a live bird, so it might have been damaged either in hunting or on its way to market. Not knowing any different, he depicted it with a plain blue-grey bill.

Here it is, in all its dull-beaked splendor:


Poor Edward Donovan. Scoffed at for centuries as fabulously unobservant, vindicated at last.

Last week at Vischer Ferry, I saw something amazing. A small flock of Ring-necks preened and displayed close to shore and in perfect light. And believe it or not, one male with his head held high and neck fully extended actually had a clearly-visible contrasting dark red collar between the glossy purple neck and his black chest. It was probably a once-in-a-lifetime sight, and of course I didn’t have my camera!


Top photo via WikiMedia Commons.

*Birding, Vol. 46, May/June 2014. Sadly, visible only to ABA members.



Categories: Bird photos, vischer ferry, waterfowl | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Birding porn

Haha! Got your attention, didn’t I!

After a long day dropping our son off at college, I had time to sit down with the day’s emails. 

First, a big sale from Swarovski! Oh, do I want a really good spotting scope, but there’s no way to justify buying one that’s worth more than the car I cart it around in. So for now I’m just lusting.

Some interesting sightings lately. The last time this uncommon seabird was reported around here, last winter in Buffalo, all my bird list messages went straight into spam folders for weeks. And it’s happening again… Yes, Brown Boobies have been sighted at Lake Champlain!

Bird banders, for convenience while cataloguing vitals as quickly as possible, use four-letter abbreviations: OSPR for Osprey, BCCH for Black-capped Chickadee, EAPH for Eastern Phoebe, and so on. In Brooklyn today, observers found a small sparrowish bird, in markings like a miniature Eastern Meadowlark. The Dickcissel is named for its dry chirping song. And its four-letter code is, of course… DICK. That’s right. While wandering around in a salt marsh, several experienced birders  observed DICK.

Categories: Why? | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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