Blog Archive: Ducks

Birdorable Smew

2021 Bonanza Bird #2: Smew

November 17th, 2021 in Birdorable Bonanza 2021, Ducks No comments
Birdorable Smew

Today, a striking species of duck joins Birdorable. Our second Bonanza bird of 2021 is the Smew!

Smews are Old World ducks found in northern parts of Europe and Asia. These migratory ducks are easily recognized by the striking plumage of male birds: a white body with black stripes that look like cracks across the back, and a dark spot around the eye. Females are also beautiful, with a markedly different plumage of drab dark brown with ruddy red along the top of the head and back of the neck. Our cute Birdorable Smew is a male.

Smew ducks forage for food by diving beneath the surface where they look for small prey items like insects, frogs, and fish. They also feed on some vegetation.

Smew photo
Smew by Ryan Mandelbaum (CC BY 2.0)

Tomorrow Birdorable will go to the tropics when we add a new species of tanager to Birdorable. This bright songbird has two colors in its name, and has at least 14 recognized subspecies. Can you guess this bird?

Birdorable King Eider

2020 Bonanza Bird #30: King Eider

December 23rd, 2020 in Birdorable Bonanza 2020, Ducks 4 comments
Birdorable King Eider

Today the second of our three “kings” joins Birdorable in the lead-up to Christmas. The King Eider is a large species of sea duck found in both the Old and New World.

King Eiders are hardy ducks, spending almost all of their time at sea. Breeding brings them to land, but females care for the nest and chicks alone, so they spend a bit more time away from the sea than males.

Speaking of male King Eiders, look at that crazy plumage! Males in breeding season are sensational, with a lot going on in terms of both color and form. They are pale blue from the forehead to the nape of the neck, with pale green cheeks and a bright yellow-orange frontal lobe framed inside a black outline. All this, and a red bill, too. It’s almost too much, but then they’ve got what looks like little “sails” on their backs, formed from special wing feathers. With a plumage so crazy, they fit into our cartoon bird family perfectly.

King Eider
King Eider by Tim Sackton (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Tomorrow’s new Birdorable will be the third and final “king” bird before Christmas. The silhouette should make this one easy! Can you guess?

Birdorable White-faced Whistling-Duck

2020 Bonanza Bird #17: White-faced Whistling-Duck

December 10th, 2020 in Birdorable Bonanza 2020, Ducks 1 comment
Birdorable White-Faced Whistling-Duck

Today’s new Birdorable is one of eight species of Whistling-Duck in the world. The White-faced Whistling-Duck joins the family!

White-faced Whistling-Ducks have an interesting range that includes large areas on two continents. They are found around freshwater habitat in sub-Saharan Africa and throughout much of South America. Their disjointed populations are a source of speculation among experts, some of whom believe that human interference may have brought the ducks across the pond.

Other species of Whistling-Duck include the Fulvous and Black-bellied, both of which are found in North America. The family gets their name from their distinct, un-duck-like, whistling calls. Whistling-Ducks are known to be gregarious, forming large roosting flocks.

Another name for this bird family is “tree duck”, as many Whistling-Ducks nest in trees. This alternative family name doesn’t apply to the White-faced, however, as they mostly nest on the ground.

White-faced Whistling Duck
White-faced Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna viduata, at Austin Rober by Derek Keats (CC BY 2.0)

Tomorrow we’ll add a species of tern with a name that sounds like it might be ready for marriage. Or perhaps they have equestrian dreams? Can you guess the species based on our silly wordplay clue?

Birdorable Surf Scoter

2019 Bonanza Bird #6: Surf Scoter

December 8th, 2019 in Birdorable Bonanza 2019, Ducks No comments
Birdorable Surf Scoter

Today we are introducing a species of sea duck to our Birdorable family: the Surf Scoter!

Surf Scoters feed on a variety of marine invertebrates. They are restricted to North American waters, breeding on freshwater bodies in Alaska and Canada and wintering along both coasts of the continent. After the nesting period, Surf Scoters molt their flight feathers. They find a safe place to do this, because during the process, they are flightless and vulnerable to predators.

Male Surf Scoters, like our cute Birdorable version, have an all-black plumage, with distinctive white patches on the face and an orange-looking bill. Females are brown.

Via bird banding, we know that wild Surf Scoters can live to be at least 11 years old.

Surf Scoter Close-up Photo
Surf Scoter by Becky Matsubara (CC BY 2.0)

Tomorrow's new bird is a colorful species of nuthatch found in Asian forests. Can you take a guess?

Birdorable Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

2019 Bonanza Bird #4: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck

December 6th, 2019 in Birdorable Bonanza 2019, Ducks No comments
Birdorable Black-bellied Whistling Duck

Today's new Birdorable bird joins our duck family! We are introducing the Black-bellied Whistling-Duck!

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks nest in tree cavities and will use nest boxes. They can often be found perching in trees. In fact, they used to be known as Black-bellied Tree Ducks. There are 8 species of Whistling-Duck in the world. They are named for their unmistakable whistling calls.

The Black-bellied Whistling-Duck is a striking species of duck with a visually pleasing mix of black, white, and chestnut to its plumage. In addition, they have a bright pink-orange bill and feet, making them easy to distinguish from other species of duck.

Black-bellied Whistling Duck family and Little Blue heron
Black-bellied Whistling Duck family and Little Blue heron

Tomorrow's new Birdorable species is a really new species -- only recently officially described by science. Can you guess this species, first found in Borneo over 10 years ago?

Birdorable Common Pochard

2017 Bonanza Bird #6: Common Pochard

November 29th, 2017 in Birdorable Bonanza 2017, Ducks 1 comment
Birdorable Common Pochard

Today's new bird in our annual Birdorable Bonanza is an Old World species of duck: the Common Pochard!

The Common Pochard is a migratory duck found across parts of Europe and Asia. They are gregarious, found in large (sometimes mixed) flocks during the winter. Common Pochards are known to occasionally hybridize with the Tufted Duck.

Common Pochards look a lot like the Redhead of North America. Adult males have light grey backs, black at the chest, and an unmistakable red head.

Tomorrow we'll reveal a new member of the egret and heron family, known for its active hunting antics and for having two distinct color morphs. Can you guess the bird?