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Saturday, October 5, 2019

My Brief Encounter with a lone Winter Wren (and nearby Mallards)

Last Saturday when I took my weekly walk with CF, I spotted the tiny creature (thanks to my long camera lens) seen in the one and only photograph that I was able to get and it is atop this entry. I have now learned his/her identity through the NYC bird expert, Robert DeCandido PhD.

The little one I saw is a Winter Wren, a type of fauna whom I've never seen before.

After learning the ID, my research led me to many interesting facts re Winter Wrens, including a  web-page for Bird Watcher's Digest, explaining, "The winter wren is one of North America’s smallest birds, kinglet-sized and rounded in shape like a small teapot, with a short stubby tail for a spout. Its bill is short and thin. Dark brown feathers suit its skulking habits, for this is a bird that likes to hide among the leaf litter or crawl into dark crevices in rocks or the cavities created by fallen logs. (Its scientific name, Troglodytes, means 'cave dweller.') Often found along stream banks or thick roadside tangles, this wren may pass unnoticed much of the time unless you are attuned to its double-click chip note. In the breeding season, however, males will often establish a perch on top of a snag and remain there for long periods as they sing their glorious, bubbly song."

This little creature hung out alongside a stream that is near an area of Central Park known as The Pool (located near west one hundred and third street). There were a number of Mallards in the marshy pool and CF and I were wowed by their blue-markings which can be seen in the following picture.

Upon seeing these blue markings, I was moved to post a chart (below) of all the body part's of Mallards; which I found @ The Spruce.


Along with the pictorial chart, they explain:

"Ducks are popular and widespread waterfowl, but do you know your duck anatomy? Being able to identify the different parts of a duck can help birders find field marks and other identifying characteristics more quickly in order to feel confident about proper duck identification.

Crown: The crown is the very top of a bird's head. On ducks, look for a solid color, iridescent sheen, or any mottling or striations. Also, check the shape of the crown, whether it is flatter or more peaked, and note how steeply the crown slopes down to the bird's bill. Also, note if the bird has any crest.

Bill: A duck's bill has a flattened, spatulate shape to help them filter food out of the water. Check the color and markings of the bill and the extent of the flattening, as well as the width and length when compared to head size.

Nail: Ducks have a slightly thicker tip on the bill, called the nail. This feature helps them root through mud or grass to find food, and in some duck species, the nail is more prominent or may be a different color than the rest of the bill.

Throat: The front of the neck is the bird's throat. Check for a ring at the base of the neck or for an overall iridescent sheen that can set the neck off from the rest of the plumage. The length of the neck can be another vital clue.

Auriculars: A bird's cheeks are called auriculars, and in some species, these short, fine feathers will show a different color than the rest of the face. If the cheeks are a different color, note how sharp the contrast is between the auriculars and the rest of the plumage.

Wing: Even when folded while a duck is perched or swimming, the wings can offer great clues for proper identification. Look for different colors on the primary feathers and secondary feathers, and note any wing bars or colored patches.

Breast: The breast or chest can be visible even when a duck is swimming or flying. Check not only the overall color but look for mottling, bars, or other distinct patterns. If the breast is a different color than the rest of the underparts, note where the two colors meet.

Underparts: Though the underparts of a duck are easily hidden when the bird is swimming, if it takes flight or perches, the abdomen can be easily seen and its color noted for identification. Also, look for any contrasting color or wash along the flanks.

Leg: Most ducks have relatively short legs, though whistling-ducks have much longer legs and that length can help with identification. Otherwise, note the leg color and the overall strength of the color to help identify the duck, but be aware that dirty water or mud may obscure the true color.

Foot: Ducks have webbed feet, but the color of the feet can vary. The extent of the webbing, size of the feet, and relative size of the talons can also provide clues for the duck's identity.

Rump: Duck rumps are often obscured by folded wings, but when they are visible, note the color or any pattern to help identify the duck. Another way a duck's rump can help with identification is how it is positioned—dabbling ducks will tip forward into the water to feed, raising their entire rear out of the water, and that behavior can help narrow down the potential species.

Tail: Most ducks have relatively short tails, but the overall color and any spotting or barring can be great identification clues. If the duck has a longer tail, note its length compared to overall body length for identification, and always note any unusual feathers, such as the distinctive curl of a male mallard's tail.

Speculum: Many duck species have a colorful speculum, which is a patch of iridescent secondary feathers on each wing. Note the color of the patch, as well as how large it is and whether or not it is bordered by a contrasting frame or bars. The speculum is easy to see when the bird is in flight but can be partially or completely obscured when the wings are folded."

And with that info, I'll end for the day, dear reader, but not before posting a couple of images of a Mallard (only the first one was taken at The Pool, the others were taken in bygone years at the Central Park's Lake, at the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, as well as at Turtle Pond), and encourage you to identify his parts based on the aforementioned chart from The Spruce.

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