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Bufflehead? or ???


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I took these pictures at Moraine Lake in Banff NP on August 26.  The duck was foraging along the edge of the lake in the shallows.  It wasn't skittish and didn't seemed bothered by me and several other hikers taking it's picture (maybe 20-30 feet away).  It was a small duck, I would guesstimate 13-16 inches.  The only thing I can come up with is Bufflehead.   The bill looks right as well as the small overall size of the bird.

However, there are a few things that seem off:

  • Nat Geo says Buffleheads have steep foreheads, this duck's forehead seems pretty shallow to me.  But maybe that is because it's head is wet?
  • The white stripe that is supposed to be behind the eye goes all the way to the bill.  But maybe that is just molting?
  • Most pictures I've seen shows a light colored breast.  This bird has a darker breast.
  • I found very few pictures that showed Bufflehead's feet and these all appeared orange.  My bird's appear greenish.  However, the pictures I found were all breeding males, so maybe females and/or eclipse have darker feet?

Any thoughts?  Thanks!

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Thanks all, great help!  👍

I had taken a look at Harlequin, but I had discounted them because the facial pattern did not match an adult female.   My resources (Nat Geo, Allaboutbirds) are pretty silent on juvenile and immature Harlequins.   Looking back, Harlequin resolves several of the issues I listed above (breast/belly, feet, head shape).

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