New duck, who dis?

UPDATE: Tara Tanaka has identified these as male wood ducks (I got the species right but not the sex). Tara says this:

How sweet!  They’re male woodies – you can tell by the crescent on their faces – the white “comma” behind the eye.  I’m guessing they are this year’s, however it’s possible they are adults that are coming out of molt and those are their new feathers.  They look really different during molt.

If you want to see how different a male wood duck looks in breeding plumage, go to this morning’s photos by Colin Franks and see the last picture.


After this morning’s feeding, three very small ducks flew into Botany Pond and made themselves at home with the mallards, even eating cracked corn on the duck plaza. I suspect these are wood ducks (Aix sponsa) based on their slight crest and eye markings, and they could be all females or perhaps including males not in breeding color. I’m sure readers can help me out with the IDs. There are also two videos at the end.

It was pretty dark, so the shutter speeds were slow, accounting for the non-sharp images.

On the North Duck Island with mallards.

These little ducks are adorable!

And two videos of them swimming in Botany Pond:

The trio swimming together.


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Wow – fascinating! It’s good we are all read up on ducks!

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    “Who dis?”

    Let’s name them Woody

  3. Andrea Kenner
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Those are some handsome ducks!

  4. David Fuqua
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Very handsome fellows.

  5. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    I am sure Tara is correct in identifying these as male wood ducks (as she has about a billion times more experience with this species than me -based as i am in the UK- I’d be a fool to question it!). I am intrigued by the colour of the eyes – I believe even in eclipse plumage adult males have distinctly red eyes (red iris and red eye ring) which these birds apparently lack. I note that Tara suggests these are probably this year’s young and would be interested to hear her comments on the development of eye colour with age in males of this species.

  6. Posted September 14, 2020 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Those wood ducks are cute little guys. Would love to see a brood of woodie ducklings on Botany Pond next Spring.

  7. Posted September 14, 2020 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I like their relatively large eyes!
    So.. maybe set up some nesting shelters for the woodies?

  8. Charles E. Jones
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    I also have a question about the wood ducks: Around Pittsburgh wood ducks are difficult to photograph since they are very skittish. They avoid open spaces and take to flight with the slightest snap of a twig.

    Are wood ducks more relaxed outside of breeding season, or are the ducks you photographed habituated to people?

    • Posted September 14, 2020 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      They’re definitely more skittish than our mallards, but they’re not all that skittish. They just don’t come very close to people, and prefer to eat corn from the shore than have food tossed at them. But they’ve been here all morning and are getting along with the mallards quite well.

      • Paul Matthews
        Posted September 14, 2020 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

        Here in Ottawa at a popular bird-watching spot called Mud Lake the wood ducks are virtually tame, scarcely deigning to get out of the way when people walk up the trail the ducks have decided to hang out on. Needless to say, they get fed a lot.

        I’m sure the wood ducks on Botany Pond must be young birds. Adult males seem to have now just about completely come out of eclipse plumage and have regained the splendour of their usual feathering.

  9. Posted September 14, 2020 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Or, as they say in New Orleans, “New duck, who dat?”

  10. Mark R.
    Posted September 14, 2020 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    It’s nice to have another duck species on the pond. Looks like the ducks are all getting along. I wonder if the three are brothers.

  11. Posted September 14, 2020 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Definitely male wood ducks in eclipse plumage. The best field mark for females is
    the white “comet” with trailing tail around the eye. It is usually good enough to make
    an accurate identification even when there is
    no male in attendance.

  12. Posted September 14, 2020 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Delightful commingling!

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