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River and Pond Ducks: Subfamily Anatidæ

Many of the diving ducks described in the preceding pages occur as migrants on nearly every large lake or river in the interior of New England and in eastern New York. Two of the Mergansers described in the following section also occur as migrants on inland ponds and streams. All these species, however, dive for their food, and may be thus distinguished from the true river or pond ducks, which obtain their food by tipping in shallow water, after the nianner of the common domestic duck. Seven species belonging to this division occur regularly in eastern New York and New England ; all but one, however, are now so rare that the ordinary observer will hardly come across them. They must be sought for in the ponds of Maine or southeastern Massachusetts, where, however, numerous gunners are generally lying in wait for them in their favorite haunts. The Black Duck or Dusky Duck is still common, and may be met with as a migrant in any pond or stream; it breeds in many places, and winters in large numbers off the sea-shore. The Wood Duck, once found in summer near quiet forest pools and deserted mill ponds, is now very rare. The Mallard, the Widgeon, and the Pintail are migrants, occurring in varying numbers, but nowhere commonly; the Mallard occasionally winters off the coast. The two species of Teal, though becoming rare elsewhere, are still rather common fall migrants in Maine, and the Blue-winged Teal nests in the extreme northern and eastern counties of that state. (See Job, “ Auk,” vol. xiii. pp. 197–204.)

WOOD DUCK. Aix sponsa
18.50 in.

Ad. ♂.— Top of head metallic green, ending in a long crest of purple, interspersed with narrow white feathers; sides of head black; throat pure white, the white running up into side of the head and hind neck, almost separating the black side of the head into two areas; upper parts brown; when seen in good light the wings show velvety black, purple, and white; tail dark, long and fan-shaped; upper breast rich reddish-chestnut, with small white arrowy markings, white mark edged with black before the bend of the wing; flanks buffy-brown; rest of under parts white ; under tail-coverts dusky; bill dark; legs and feet brownish-yellow. Ad. ♀.— Top of head blackish; sides of head grayish-brown; ring round eye and patch behind it white; rest of upper parts brown, the wings at close range as in ; throat pure white; breast brown, mottled with buff; belly white, with here and there a dusky spot; bill dark; legs and feet yellowish-brown.

Nest, in holes in trees, near water. Eggs, ivory-white.

The Wood Duck was formerly a common summer resident throughout New York and New England, breeding about quiet ponds and slow streams; but it has diminished rapidly of late, and can hardly be considered common anywhere, unless in the wilder portions of northern New England. It is an uncommon winter visitant on Long Island, but elsewhere in New England occurs chiefly as a migrant in March and April, and from August to November, or as a rare summer resident. It may be found on small inland ponds or wooded streams. The male is unmistakable; the long crest-feathers and the black and white sides of the head give him a characteristic look. The female has a slight crest, but may be best distinguished by the white eye-ring and stripe of white behind the eye.

PINTAIL. Dafila acuta
♂ 28.00 in. ♀ 22.00 in.

Ad. ♂.— Head, throat, and part of fore neck brown; hind neck black, separated from fore neck by a white stripe; back gray, with narrow wavy black lines; speculum bronze, with greenish reflections, bordered in front with cinnamon; long black feathers, edged with white, extend down the wing; middle tail-feathers long and black; lower fore neck, breast, and belly white; feathers under tail black; bill and feet slate. Ad. ♀.— Top of head and hind neck brown; back brown, the feathers edged with whitish; under parts whitish, spotted with dusky, darkest on neck; bill and feet slate. Im. ♂.— Similar to ♀, but with speculum as in ad. ♂.

The Pintail is a migrant through New York and New England, common off Long Island and in the Hudson Valley, but rare in most of New England. It occurs in Plymouth County, Mass., from the end of September through October, and again in April; in the Hudson Valley it is found till December, and off Long Island it occasionally winters. The adult male may be easily recognized by his long black tail-feathers, which are cocked up as he swims, but these are often not yet grown in the autumn. The male may, however, be identified by the long slender neck and by the pure white under parts.

BLUE-WINGED TEAL. Querquedula discors
16.00 in.

Ad. ♂.— Head apparently dusky, a broad white crescent in front of the eye; back brown, upper back mottled with buff ; upper parts buffy or reddish-buff, everywhere spotted with black; wing when closed has a light blue patch, edged with white, and a concealed greenish patch; bill black; legs and feet yellow. Ad. ♀.— Top of head blackish; throat whitish, no white crescent; back and wings dusky; under parts gray, streaked on the breast with black; wing as in ♂, but with less blue; bill greenish-black; legs and feet greenish-yellow.

Nest, on the ground, in weeds and rushes. Eggs, pale buff.

The Blue-winged Teal is a migrant through New York and New England, breeding rarely in northern and eastern Maine. It has become scarcer of late years, and though still commoner than the following species, it can hardly be called common except in the wilder portions of Maine. It is everywhere rarer in spring, than in autumn, occurring generally from the end of August to October. Teal, like the other river ducks, feed at night, and lie concealed by day. Toward dusk they approach the pond or marsh where they hope to feed, and may be known on the wing by their small size and great speed. When seen by day the male is easily recognized by the white crescent before the eye and by the blue in the wing; the latter mark also distinguishes the female. (See the following species.)


Blue-winged Teal

GREEN-WINGED TEAL. Nettion carolinensis
14.50 in.

Ad. ♂.— Head chiefly chestnut; chin black, a broad stripe from eye metallic-green, ending in a black tuft on hind neck; upper back and flanks gray, finely barred with black, like a guinea hen; a white band in front of bend of wing; lower back brown; speculum metallic-green, edged with black, and, forward, with a bit of light chestnut; upper breast reddish-buff, with round black spots, rest of lower parts whitish; under tail-coverts black; bill black; legs and feet dark brown. Ad. ♀.— Top of head and back dusky-brownish, the feathers of the back edged with buff; throat buffy; speculum metallic-green, a stripe of white tinged with chestnut forward; breast buff, spotted with blackish; rest of under parts whitish; bill brown; legs and feet brown. Im. ♂.— Similar to ♀, but under parts chiefly white.

The Green-winged Teal is a migrant through New York and New England, and a winter visitant in the vicinity of New York city. It occurs as a migrant in April, and in September and October, alighting in inland ponds and marshes, often associating with the preceding species and with Black Duck. It has become rare of late years, and, except in the wilder portions of Maine, would hardly be observed, except by constant visits to gunners' stands. An adult male is readily distinguished by the chestnut head with the green and black stripe behind the eye. A female or immature bird would be recognized as a teal by its small size, and as belonging to this species if the green on the wing can be made out. The adult Blue-winged Teal also has some green on the wing, but a larger amount of blue.

19.00 in.

Ad. ♂.— Forehead and top of head white; sides of head blackish; rest of head and neck buff, speckled with black; back brown; wing with a broad white patch; speculum metallic-green, bordered with velvety black; upper breast and sides chestnut; rest of under parts white; bill and feet slate. ♀ and Im. ♂.— Top of head blackish; back dusky, barred with buff; speculum black; throat and neck buff, streaked with dusky, breast and sides reddish-brown, with dusky spots on the breast; rest of under parts white; bill and feet brown.

The Widgeon is a migrant through New York and New England, common in the lower Hudson Valley, uncommon off Long Island, and in New England. It occurs in September and October, and in April. The male may be known by the white forehead; care must, however, be taken not to confuse the female Scaup, a diving duck, with the Widgeon.

[Spelling could be Widgeon or Wigeon. Probably Wigeon is the most common nowadays.]

[EURASIAN WIGEON]. Mareca penelope
17.00 - 20.00 in.

Rare but occasional visitor.

BLACK DUCK. Anas obscura
RED-LEGGED BLACK DUCK. Anas obscura rubripes
22.00 - 25.00 in.

Ad. ♂.— Top of head blackish; sides of head, neck, and throat light buffy-brown; rest of plumage dark brown (apparently black, except in strong light); speculum iridescent purple or greenish, edged with velvety black; under sides of wings silvery; bill broad and fairly long, yellowish-green or olive in the Black Duck (see note below); feet of Black Duck brown.

Nest, on the ground, generally near the water. Eggs, varying from pale buff to pale greenish-buff.

The Black Duck breeds throughout New England and on Long Island, commonly in the northern portions of New Hampshire and Maine, rarely in southern New England and on Long Island. It is a very common migrant in March and April, and from August to November. Along the seacoast it is a winter visitant, abundant in southern New England and on Long Island, not so common along the Maine coast. It feeds at night in ponds and marshes, or up the tidal creeks and estuaries, retiring by day either to the shelter of reeds or to the sea, well off shore.

It may be known when it flies by its dusky or blackish under parts, and by the silvery lining under its wings. The American Scoter is also entirely black, and the two may be confused along the sea-shore, where the Scoter is found from September to May. The latter, however, dives for its food, while the Black Duck, when at sea, simply rides the water, till the approach of dusk sends it back to its feeding-ground; it never dives. It often comes out on the sand-bars and stands or squats there in company with gulls.

NOTE.— The Red-legged Black Duck is a larger race, with red legs and a yellow bill; it breeds north of New England, and is found here as a migrant or winter visitant. The Black Ducks seen in New York or New England in summer belong to the smaller race.

[The Red-legged Black Duck is just the Black Duck adult male in winter. There was a lot of controversy in Hoffmann's times about it. You can read this magnificent article that describes the whole issue really well at]

MALLARD. Anas boschas
23.00 in.

Ad. ♂.— Head and neck iridescent green, a white ring almost entirely around neck, broken only the nape; upper back brown; lower back black; wings ash-gray; speculum violet, bordered in front and behind with black and white, the white showing in flight; tail nearly all white; breast chestnut; feathers under tail black; rest of under parts silver-gray; bill and legs yellow; feet reddish-orange. Ad. ♀.— Upper parts brownish; feathers edged with buff; throat buff; speculum like that of ♂; breast brownishbuff, spotted with black; lower parts white, spotted with dusky; tail light-colored; bill greenish-yellow; feet yellowish.

The Mallard is a rare or uncommon migrant through eastern New York and New England, occurring in September and October, and in March and April. It occasionally winters off the coast. Its habits are very similar to those of the Black Duck, and it often associates with a flock of the latter. The male is readily recognized by his resemblance to the domestic drake; the female resembles the female Black Duck, but may be recognized by her lighter under parts and by the white in the outspread wing.

[During the 20th century the mallard became a very common duck throughout New York and New England and many other parts of the world.]

[GADWALL]. Mareca strepera
18.00 - 22.00 in.

Missing in original book for unknown reasons. The Gadwall can be found on Long Island in non-breeding season. I can also be found during migration in the rest of New York and New England.

[RING-NECKED DUCK]. Aythya collaris
15.00 - 18.00 in.

Missing in original book for unknown reasons. The Ring-Necked Duck can be found nowadays in New York and New England both in breeding and non-breeding seasons.

[CANVASBACK]. Aythya valisineria
19.00 - 22.00 in.

Missing in original book for unknwon reasons. It can be found nowadays in New York and New England in non-breeding season and during migration.

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