This Aythya was photographed at Village Creek Drying Beds, Fort Worth, TX in early April 1998. Note that the wind was quite strong this day, blowing from left to right - i.e. from the rear of the bird in A, and from the front of the bird in the remaining photos; this caused the "tuft/crest" to be fluffed up a little in A yet flattened a little in B,C,D. Note the strangely shaped tuft/crest, the peak of the crown above the eye, the lack of pale vertical striping down the sides of the bill base, and the oddly-held wings such that an unusual amount of flank feathering is visible - with the indication that some of these upper flank feathers are much paler gray (or whitish). There were other normal-looking RNDUs in nearby ponds, but none closeby; these other birds looked flatter-headed than usual due to the wind, but I feel that this bird still looks "wrong" for a pure RNDU. We have a number of recently-returned RNDUs here in Fort Worth in November, and I carefully looked a bunch of them:- all of the males, including the young immature males, have the pale strip at the sides of the bill base (joining the basal pale upper crescent with the thin pale line along the cutting edge). Is this a hybrid? If so, which other species donated some genes?
all photos by Martin Reid
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