Monday, 2 March 2015

Pekin Duck (Canard colvert domestique)

London, ON
1 March 2015

     On a day when the temperature was forecast to get up to around minus 4°C, positively balmy for southern Ontario recently, Miriam and I decided to drive down to Springbank Park in London to see a Harlequin Duck Histrionicus histrionicus which had been seen there the previous day by our good friend Charlotte Moore.
     Alas, the duck was nowhere to be found despite considerable searching, and checking with several local birders and photographers, no one else had seen it either. However there was lots to hold our attention with a wide variety of interesting waterfowl, and male Northern Cardinals Cardinalis cardinalis were in full song, and several Mallards Anas platyrychos were in high mating mode. Common Goldeneyes Bucephala clangula, fueled by surging hormones, were engaged in that very entertaining head toss routine which occurs when spring is in the air.
     Perhaps most interesting of all, however, was a pure Pekin Duck Anas platyrynchos domestica (sometimes known as a Long Island Duck) in a flock of Mallards. 

     This duck has been selectively bred to achieve its pure white form and far from being just a source of protein for the human diet, it has become popular as a household pet. It imprints on people and can be trained not to mess up a house and provides an excellent alarm service if anything untoward or unfamiliar happens at the home. People even take them on car trips and since the bird is imprinted onto its human "parents" it happily walks alongside them without straying.

     This one has obviously somehow become separated from its human family and has readily adapted to life with its wild cousins.
     The Staghorn Sumachs Rhus typhina looked particularly nice with an icing sugar topping of snow.

     On the way home we dropped down to Grass Lake and Bill Read and Ross Dickson were there banding Snow Buntings Plectrophenax nivalis and Horned Larks Eremophila alpestris.
     Bill was happy to show us the defining characteristics of a second year male.

     The birds readily enter the cage which is baited with corn and Bill and Ross are kept very busy.

     We didn't see the Harlequin Duck, but we had an interesting and entertaining day regardless. That, my friends, is the nature of birding.  


  1. Hello David,
    Quite an interesting day indeed!
    I too am sorry not to see the Harlequin figure as a star in this post, but at least I guess the Pekin duck is much happier among his peers!
    The Snow bunting is very beautiful and I bet one must learn a lot with a specialist, I just hope the ringing is kept to a minimum!!!
    Keep well, hugs to you both :)

  2. A shame you missed the Harlequin David. That would have made for a perfect day out. Of course not having seen in the hand a Snow Bunting I am seriously "gripped" by your encounter with the beautiful specimen you show us.

    As attractive as that Pekin Duck is I'm not so sure about having one as a pet though. I would get some strange looks and comments if I went birding out Pilling way with that wobbling along beside me.

    Hope your weather continues to improve. Here it is still grey, windy and rainy on many days but set to improve by weekend.

  3. Snow Buntings have always been one of my fave birds..................

    If a Harlequin Duck appeared in the 'other' London it would be pretty big news!

  4. Hello David,
    Beautiful photos of the Snow buntings.
    Too bad you have not seen the Harlequin Duck.
    Best regards, Irma

  5. Fantastic birds here. You have a little bit of everything here:) Nice Horned Lark! As for the HADU, next time:)

  6. Hello David, Not all your wishes came trough but non the less you did see some pretty birds. A lot of Snowbuntings. Nice to have been able to see the details. Sorry you did not find the Harlequin duck. That would have been something special indeed.

  7. Gosh David, you and Miriam could have dropped in for tea :) Neat duck that white one! I hadn't heard about the Harlequin in the area. I rarely venture to Springbank in the winter, but, had I known...

  8. Yep! That is, I guess, the nature of birding. Sounds like you managed to make it a very enjoyable outing, anyway.

    Best wishes - - - Richard

  9. The snow buntings are very pretty birds. Nice close ups.

  10. Very nice pictures David. You had a workshop 'banding birds' for free. Top!
    Gr Jan W

  11. I had never heard of horned larks but when I see pictures than they really do exist. The Velvet Tree I find really beautiful! Alat you also see how beautiful the wild ducks.