Friday, February 10, 2012

They Called Him "Fuligula"


Every part of the country has it's "specialty" rarities. The northeast gets European birds. Florida gets birds from the Carribean. Texas and Arizona suck up Mexican specialties. The West Coast gets Asians.

Yup. There are a lot of Asians around these parts. I am half Asian myself, which gives me Hybrid Vigor. Of course, birders here are just as disproportionately white as anywhere else, but we are not talking about that. No, when I'm talking about Asians, I'm talking about birds.

Of course, we don't get the volume of Asian Awesomeness that Alaska does, but we do get our share. In the last few months I've been lucky enough to see Falcated Duck, Red-throated Pipit, Brambling, Ruff, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, and a couple of Tufted Ducks. Maybe I've seen all of these birds because of my Hybrid Vigor.

Tufted Ducks occur regularly every winter from Washington south to the bay area, and sometimes further, making them the most dependable Asiafowl to find aside from the comparatively abundant Eurasian Wigeon and "Common" Teal.


As you can see in this photograph, Tufted Ducks are clearly awesome. Have you seen one? No? Well come visit Lake Merritt in Oakland, California, where this dude spends every winter. Although it's often passed out with the scaup flock in the middle of the lake, you can occasionally find it lurking just a few feet from shore. I last saw the bird yesterday (February 9), so if you're in the area, come on by.

Per my normal policy, I will now intentionally not begin talking about how to identify Tufted Ducks. That would be boring and redundant, as you probably have your own bird books, and as you can see it has a giant tuft sticking out of the back of its head, which is indicative of it being a Tufted Duck.


Here's our Tufted friend with cousins, Greater Scaup (middle) and Ring-necked Duck (right). Obviously, they all look different. Sorry I couldn't get any Lesser Scaup in to the frame.


Like Greater and Lesser Scaup, the color of a drake's head is dependent on the light. Sometimes they have green, and sometimes purple heads. Not useful for identification, but a nice aesthetic touch.


Tufted Ducks can be hard to spot. Even when they're right in front of you. You should still be embarrassed though.



Tufted Ducks are easiest to spot when you happen to be positioned within 10 feet of the bird, preferably when it's directly beneath you. In fact, I recommend this method highly. That said, I have met more than one Lake Merritt birder who failed to notice the Tufted Duck sitting within petting distance from shore, which has heavy implications, to say the least...


Here it is, the shot you've been waiting for...The Bellowing Tufted. I would describe the listening experience as similar to what it would be like to have two (2) Amazonian Giant Centipedes in your ears, sinking their horrible fangs into your ear drums and sending you into terminal brain paralysis.


Tuft tuft tuft.


Since Tufted Ducks spend inordinate amounts of time being rare and making birders wet their pants, they need to get their shut-eye.

15 comments:

  1. Really? REALLY? COME ON now. I wish you had never (supposedly) seen those Pine Grosbeaks so I could write a whole post about their awesomeness, complete with perfect photos of them in every position imaginable in perfect sunlight. And then tag you in a photo of one on FB. And text you a photo of one. And make you cry every night that you hadn't seen one yet...

    Anyhoo, nice post.

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  2. That's a pretty nice Tufted Duck you've got there...in fact it's pretty damn awesome!

    I didn't notice the Rare Bird Disclaimer at the end of your post, you know the one where you swear that this rare bird was not lured in from Asia using your bird calls and a bullhorn, nor was it artificially created in a lab. So it is purely on goodwill that I'll assume you didn't capture a Lesser Scaup, glue a bit of tuft to his head and paint the tip of his beak black.

    You seem so have an uncanny knack for finding cool decks and getting them to bellow at you. Perhaps no one has told you this before, but you must be provocative! Great photos and info here; I'm envious and charmed all at once.

    Look at that conniving Tufted terror in the last photo...plotting man's demise, as well as that of some of the more cunning apes...

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    1. Thanks Laurence. Yes it has been a bellow-filled winter...my ear drums are all but shattered.

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  3. Yeah, what Lawrence said - "envious and charmed all at once". Great funnies and brain paralyzing photos...I have to go recover now...

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    1. Thanks Lauren! Ya know, bourbon has many healing powers...

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  4. Hey, sweet, the tuft looks a hell of a lot better than it did when I was at Lake Merritt (15 Jan):

    http://arcticory.blogspot.com/2012/01/humboldt-humbling.html

    Nice pics.

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    1. Thanks Cory, and cool blog. I think the duck can really manipulate the appearance of its tuft...it looks short and stubby in the second to last picture, but the other shots say otherwise.

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  5. i almost drooled at that first photo.

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    1. You should have! It's drool-worthy, right?

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    2. totally drool worthy. I almost did it again!

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  6. Beautiful shots! What an interesting duck. We have all of the others you mentioned but none of the tufted ones.

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    1. Thank you much Dina. Yes I am very supportive of any bird with extra head adornments...

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  7. Incredible images!! I have had the pleasure of seeing one, once, in a river in Maine one winter. And, one was reported just today among a raft of scaup in Glace Bay, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia (I spend my summers in CB, so I'm on their list). They are adorable! ~karen

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    1. Glad you have partaken in the Tufted goodness Karen, we are better for it.

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