A Noncommittal Diver

Happy 4th of July everyone!  Hopefully you live in a state that trusts it’s serfs to know how to handle fire and thus can enjoy the holiday as it was meant to be – as opposed to some of us who are subject to state administrations that is more worried about someone lighting a firecracker than they are passing a budget that keeps the state out of debt — but I digress.  In celebration of our independence from an oppressive government (hmmm starting to sound ironically familiar)… I bring you another great find at the Henderson Nevada Wildlife Viewing Preserve.  This bird immediately brings to mind all the festive colors we typically associate with our proud country.

Ummm okay, maybe not.  Actually it doesn’t even seem to be that well associated to Independence Day now that I take another gander at it.  Well, it sounded good anyway (editor’s note, for the record, it does look like it is “independent” in the since that it is alone – that way if I was for some reason to be called in front of a Congressional hearing I can say I was telling the truth unlike the Head of Intelligence who conveniently claims he “forgot” about the Patriot Act as his excuse for lying under oath – sorry, more digression).  So, you are probably thinking this specimen is a Redhead Duck because that is exactly what I thought it was when I came up on it enjoying one of the ponds.  It wasn’t until a few minutes ago that I realized that initial assumption was wrong.  Based on validation with all my references, I have changed my classification to … a Canvasback.  The Redhead and the Canvasback have almost identical color schemes – brownish heads and black highlighting at the same locations, but they differ in  few key areas.  First of all, the Redhead has a body feathering that is more gray contrasted with the Canvasback which has a much brighter/whiter coloring.  A closer look at the beak also show differences with the Canvasback being pointier and darker instead of the blunter and more stylized bill sported by the other duck.  They do have nearly identical region maps, but based on the other factors my money is on a Canvasback.  For the detailed oriented people out there, the Canvasback is about 2 inches longer and a little larger weight wise, but that is impossible to distinguish in the field.

Hit the jump read more about the Canvasback!

There was actually another aspect of the scene that helped with the decision.  As an aid during the classification process, I’ve learned to try and capture the birds in the same vicinity.  Unless one is stalking some strange, they usually keep company with their same species.  This allows for you to average their color palette in case one happens to be brighter or duller than another and more importantly allows you to pair up the mate.  Granted this does not always work when it comes to females since they tend to have common dull coloring, but every once in awhile fortune shines down and it actually helps identify the male.  That is exactly the case in the following shot.

It did require me to go wide due to the distance apart, but the male was definitely keeping tabs on the female so a good bet they were a couple.  Sure enough, the coloring of the female matches the Canvasback perfectly and is definitely different looking than the female Redhead.  Score!

There were a few more tidbits of information than the Ruddy had (link here).  For one thing, our friends over at Wikipedia claim it is the largest of the diving ducks in North America.  I was not able to discern it was a diver in the field since they basically just floated around the whole time.  They got their name thanks to early North American Europeans thinking their back looked like a canvas.  Not to be outdone in the originality category, the French cleverly named it White-Backed Duck.  They probably took a few days off of work to rest after coming up with that awesome name.  They are listed as Least Concern on the conservation scale although the bird did experience a significant decline in numbers back in the 1980s causing it to get the Special Concern status.  The 1990’s saw its return – Yea! Add to that an apparent ban on hunting them in the 2008-2009 waterfowl season which maintained another 200,000 to their population.  But the most interesting characteristic I read was their mating habits.   They usually take a new mate each year.  Most of the time I read about such and such a bird mating for life which is why this little fact caught me off guard.  By deduction I declare this bird very noncommittal.. or just really into key parties.

Sorry for the lack of pictures on this post – hoping some more might pop up when I get around to processing the second day of the shoot.

3 thoughts on “A Noncommittal Diver”

  1. Thanks, a new bird to learn about. These literal names like White-Backed Duck crack me up. We went past a road today with the name “Burnt Store Rd.”. I think most people would have to work to be that literal, kind of like a grown-up trying to draw a crayon picture like a kid would–can’t be done. That’s one reason I like to look at town names on state maps, especially out West.

    Key party–had to look that one up. I guess I’m not hip enough!



  2. Sooo.. was there a Burned Store on that road? I totally agree, it is impossible to replicate the untainted view from a child’s perspective. Grown-ups are too rigid in their interpretation – all aliens have two eyes, nose in middle etc. where a kid could just as easily draw a horse on Mars. It would be an interesting study to see what influences, age etc. this creativity is pruned (and why there are some out there that actually find a way to come original (shout out to 311). I’ll have to pay more attention to street signs – guessing they’ll be a few PotHole Streets out there.

    Better have had your Google filter on if you were using the Image Search on that – although I’m not buying it – that little game has been around a looooong time.


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