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On 5/16/21 mid-afternoon at East Biddle Lake Vancouver, WA, this female dabbling duck with three younger ducks was swimming at the edge of the shallow pond close to the vegetation. Dabbling involved horizontal thrusts rather than full bottom-up action typical of mallards. Typical mallard females and chicks were present in the western Biddle Lake nearby. They had beaks with more yellow and faces with very thin dark lines through the eyes. This bird looked different, with mostly dark bill with tip a shade of grey. The face has a thicker dark line through the eye and a dark cheek line horizontal from the edge of the bill. Pictures of female garganey ducks seem to fit, but that would be quite rare here. I suppose female cinnamon teal or female blue-winged teal might be possible. Is this within the usual variability of mallards? Is it a garganey? Thanks, Robert Wheeler.

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Tony has been providing VERY strong evidence as to why this bird is a Mallard. In my -limited- experience with odd mallards, there is significant variation in the facial and bill patterns. I have seen

Criticize the content, not the poster. I'm also on record as frequently disagreeing with Tony's style, but his technical knowledge is next to unchallengeable.

I understand that many birders do not do details well at all. Gestalt and initial impression suffice for way too many, frequently leading them astray. I will provide the specifics; please refer t

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I have never actually seen a Garganey but I have seen all the Teals and many many Mallards and Mallard hybrids. That said I think these are Garganey.

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Wow. Thank you all. Meanwhile, I found a Washington state rare bird alert site. This would be the first listing of garganey for Clark County, WA (and breeding at that), although the species has been reported rarely in other WA counties. I have asked the state experts to weigh in as well. Since they are recorded as breeding in Canada, I suppose climate change might be changing their range. I will look into how reporting happens on eBird.

 

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Just looking at photos online, I think the shape of your bird does not match the shape of a female Garganey and is good for a Mallard.  To me a Garganey's face and bill appear more dished and their bodies appear more Teal-like.

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10 minutes ago, The Bird Nuts said:

Just looking at photos online, I think the shape of your bird does not match the shape of a female Garganey and is good for a Mallard.  To me a Garganey's face and bill appear more dished and their bodies appear more Teal-like.

This. Body shape is Mallard, and I think some domestics can look like this (or a wild x domestic mallard). 

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Glad to have the additional cautionary comments. Looks like eBird only allows submission of photos along with a submitted checklist. I am reluctant to contaminate the database with a possible Garganey if it is really a mallard or mallard cross. Will wait for input from WA rare bird folks before coming to a firmer conclusion.

Thanks.

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Posted (edited)

Mallard. The feather patterns on the various teal species mentioned here are quite different. I have noticed over the years that most birders do not pay attention to this sort of thing. Marbling or wavy bars or whatever internal markings birds, particularly ducks and shorebirds, are markings. They're all the same.

They're not. Studying -- really studying -- birds that one can see well is the surest way to increase one's knowledge and skill sets.

Edited by Tony Leukering
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24 minutes ago, Robert Wheeler said:

I am reluctant to contaminate the database with a possible Garganey

I think reporting a rare bird doesn’t affect the public database unless it is confirmed by a reviewer. 

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17 minutes ago, Hasan said:

Agree w Tony, this is definitely a Mallard. Don't report it as a Garganey, reputation often matters in the birding community

 

3 minutes ago, Connor Cochrane said:

This is an understatement. Reputation is critical in my opinion. 

For what?

Of course it may be different here in northern New Mexico, where there aren't many birders.  Before Covid, I'd been leading the same Audubon field trip or two for years, but if a better birder had wanted to do it, I'd have been happy with that.

If you're talking about getting sight records accepted at eBird, I try pretty hard to avoid asking the reviewers to do that.

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1 minute ago, Jerry Friedman said:

 

For what?

Of course it may be different here in northern New Mexico, where there aren't many birders.  Before Covid, I'd been leading the same Audubon field trip or two for years, but if a better birder had wanted to do it, I'd have been happy with that.

If you're talking about getting sight records accepted at eBird, I try pretty hard to avoid asking the reviewers to do that.

If you reported a Mallard as a Garganey, people would loose trust in you. I don't trust people who report many things with photos that are obviously wrong. If they were to report a rarity without photos, I wouldn't trust the record for a second. Good luck getting things accepted on eBird as well without photos when you continuously post incorrectly ID'd birds.

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The point is that if you're going to report a REALLY rare REALLY significant sighting (i.e. Garganey breeding) you better be very sure it's not a common bird, otherwise it just looks like stringing and most birders in the area are gonna roll their eyes at it

Edited by Hasan
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I hold with my opinion on Garganey female in non-breeding plumage and a juvenile. Instead of posting it on an ebird checklist as a rare bird and possibly "ruining your reputation" contact your local or district ebird administrator and ask them for their help in iding/comfirming this bird (hopefully you have a good one that isn't too busy to have a volunteer position or is too arrogant to be bothered by those of us who know we will never know everything and can use a little help once in awhile). What I see on this bird supporting my call for Garganey. The White over the eye of the adult not tan like on a female Mallard. The markings on the feathers look fine for Garganey. I don't know what Tony sees I wish he had elaborated. The pale throat of both birds is also good for Garganey. The bill color is consistent with Garganey. As for the suggestion that posting a rare bird that is wrong with a photo ruining a persons reputation I'm sure that it does with some but most birders realize that iding birds can be a challenge, have made mistakes themselves and realize that this as well as anything in life is an education in process. No one knows everything there is to know about any one subject and none of us are perfect.

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2 hours ago, Clip said:

I hold with my opinion on Garganey female in non-breeding plumage and a juvenile. Instead of posting it on an ebird checklist as a rare bird and possibly "ruining your reputation" contact your local or district ebird administrator and ask them for their help in iding/comfirming this bird (hopefully you have a good one that isn't too busy to have a volunteer position or is too arrogant to be bothered by those of us who know we will never know everything and can use a little help once in awhile). What I see on this bird supporting my call for Garganey. The White over the eye of the adult not tan like on a female Mallard. The markings on the feathers look fine for Garganey. I don't know what Tony sees I wish he had elaborated. The pale throat of both birds is also good for Garganey. The bill color is consistent with Garganey. As for the suggestion that posting a rare bird that is wrong with a photo ruining a persons reputation I'm sure that it does with some but most birders realize that iding birds can be a challenge, have made mistakes themselves and realize that this as well as anything in life is an education in process. No one knows everything there is to know about any one subject and none of us are perfect.

Alright, but breeding Garganey??? That seems a little hard to believe.

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15 hours ago, Connor Cochrane said:

If you reported a Mallard as a Garganey, people would loose trust in you. I don't trust people who report many things with photos that are obviously wrong. If they were to report a rarity without photos, I wouldn't trust the record for a second. Good luck getting things accepted on eBird as well without photos when you continuously post incorrectly ID'd birds.

 

15 hours ago, Hasan said:

The point is that if you're going to report a REALLY rare REALLY significant sighting (i.e. Garganey breeding) you better be very sure it's not a common bird, otherwise it just looks like stringing and most birders in the area are gonna roll their eyes at it

Thanks for answering my question.  Your reputation as a birder is important for getting rarity reports accepted without photos or recordings.  That makes perfect sense.  However, it's not something I care all that much about.  I guess it would be sad if I ever found a rarity worth chasing and people missed it because they didn't trust me, but it seems unlikely.  I do care about having accurate reports on eBird, so as I said, I really try to get photos or recordings of anything rare-ish (including birds that aren't eBird rarities because they're regular in other parts of this big county).

So I think I'll continue to use the method of "let the reviewer decide" if circumstances warrant it, which they seldom do.

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1 hour ago, Seanbirds said:

Alright, but breeding Garganey??? That seems a little hard to believe.

I never said breeding.

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Just now, Clip said:

I think your links prove my points nicely thank you.

You're not paying attention to the precise feathers patterns -- note particularly the patterns of the scapulars and the side feathers. They're radically different.

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