Monday, January 28, 2013

Identify this waterfowl answer

Last week in this post I asked you to identify the waterfowl species in the photo. Here it is once again.

That's a bird in some water in the state of Connecticut - I know, that is a lot to go off of, isn't it? I told you it was in the last few months, and it was actually towards the end of November. I was glad to see a couple of people took the time to leave a guess in the comments section. Neither of them is correct but both of them are definitely understandable and excellent guesses! This photo makes scale difficult to judge, but both a Red-throated Loon and a Double-crested Cormorant are much larger than this species. They may both have longer necks, with a juvenile Double-crested Cormorant having some of the similar lighter tones but a Red-throated Loon having more gray and white on the neck and head.

You can barely see some of the profile of the head but it is short and relatively compact. The bill is mostly hidden, but even this can be a clue as cormorants, loons, and some other ducks would have longer bills sticking out even at this angle. Now that we have established a few more facts I can confirm that this is a freshwater pond. It is calm water, unlike Long Island Sound most of the time, and you can see a reflection of some sort on the left part of the photo, in this case vegetation surrounding the pond, instead of a clear blue or wide open area.

So to recap, it is a small waterfowl species with a compact bill in late November in a freshwater pond with at least some vegetation surrounding it. The bird is alone in the photo as it was in the pond. It has an area of white feathers at the rump, but is mostly drab browns of varying shades otherwise. Any more thoughts? Here is a photo that should help.

That is a Pied-billed Grebe. I was relatively far from the shy bird, but you can see the stout bill, the overall tiny stature, the brighter brown tones on the neck and some on the flanks, and the contrasting darker back. They are relatively nondescript in their wintering appearance as they lack the black ring on a gray bill, a breeding season feature. While this was a migrant and far removed from nesting season, I believe this was actually the only individual of the species I saw during all of 2012, somewhat of an unfortunate indication of how deserving their listing as "Endangered" on the Connecticut Endangered Species Act is.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photos by Scott Kruitbosch © Connecticut Audubon Society and not to be reproduced without explicit CAS permission

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