Sunday Faux Duck o’ the Week

January 17, 2021 • 8:15 am

It’s Sunday, which means that John Avise has some photos of Faux Ducks—those species of waterfowl that people think are ducks but aren’t. Your job is to guess the species after looking at the photos below. You’ll find the answer, along with John’s Faux Duck Fax and a range map, below the fold. Captions are John’s; click photos to enlarge them:

Individual swimming:

Non-breeder showing its webbed feet:

Bird in flight:

Another bird in flight:

Juvenile standing:

Drying its wings:

Breeding adult on nest:

Showing blue gular pouch:

Dorsal view:

Head portrait:

Nesting colony:

Typical natural habitat:

Click “continue reading” for the ID, Fun Faux Duck Fax, and a range map:

ID: Brandt’s Cormorant (Phalacrocorax penicillatus)

This species closely resembles the Double-crested Cormorant (see last week’s post), but differs from the latter in the following morphological and behavioral features (among others):  a slightly more rounded crown; a darker bill; blue coloration on the gular pouch (especially noticeable when in breeding condition); and a strong proclivity to fly low over the surface of the ocean.  Another key difference is that whereas Double-crested Cormorants routinely occur on freshwater lakes far inland as well as along ocean coastlines, Brandt’s Cormorants are strictly coastal (Pacific Coast only).  These birds nest in large groups on rocky terrain and forage on the open ocean.  As in other cormorants, all four toes on each foot are fully webbed, giving the birds great propulsive power when swimming.

And a range map from the Cornell site:



8 thoughts on “Sunday Faux Duck o’ the Week

    1. Evolutionary relationships– all true ducks form a presumably monophyletic group within the assigned taxonomic family Anatidae. Faux ducks are not members of this family and are not a part of that monophyletic unit. Instead, what we’ve been calling (just for the fun of it) “faux ducks” often have convergently evolved webbed feet and swim like ducks, so some beginning birders could mistake them for true ducks.

      1. Thank you.

        I am not a beginning birder, but I am not conversant with waterfowl at all, since my local ecosystem is high desert. The only observations I have of waterfowl are if I go to the river (Rio Grande), which is on the other side of the mountain from me, or when I visit Bosque del Apache (infrequently, usually with company who have never been there).


        1. I am not conversant with waterfowl at all, since my local ecosystem is high desert.

          Well, I suppose it’ll do as an excuse. Until you get stronger binoculars.

  1. Guess: [ something-somethinged ] Cormorant

    [ checks answer ]

    Ugh! A “Name’s” cormorant! Those are impossible to guess!

  2. Showing blue gular pouch:

    Ouch – that one hooked my eye as I was scrolling past it at high(-ish) speed. A dinosaur with a guitar pouch? Well, Darwin be praised! That’s a development I could not have predicted, regardless of the colour.

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