A Duck with a Do

February 7, 2019

Today wasn’t going to be a picture day. Today was going to be a do-errands-and-get-things-done day. I wasn’t even going to take my camera with me but…. sometimes, when I’m doing errands with Mel and a bookshop or a fishing store is involved, well, it could take hours. So, I threw my camera in the trunk…just in case.

When we finally got to the library bookstore, I promptly looked for my escape route—not that I don’t like libraries or books, quite the contrary; I just didn’t need any books at the moment. So, I looked for something else to do and found a pond, right behind the library! Perfect.

At first, I just grabbed my binoculars rather than my camera. I didn’t think Mel would be looking at books long enough for me to take an actual picture walk because the library book store was extremely small. Lucky for me, he did!

I no sooner got down to the pond with my binoculars, though,  and I quickly decided that what I actually needed was my camera! Right at the edge of the pond was a mother Muscovy duck and her two Muscovy babies in tow! A little farther out on the pond were dozens of unfamiliar looking birds, and then all along the shore, right behind the library were hundreds of other birds! I ended up shooting for well over an hour before Mel reappeared!

Then, at the end of our day, after most of the errands had been run, we decided to take a relaxing walk somewhere and chose a lovely one mile path around the nearby Crescent Lake. Once again, I vowed to leave my camera in the car because we both knew that if I took it with me, not much walking would get done. But, we were less than five minutes into our walk when I spotted a wood stork, and then a pelican, and then a limpkin, and then a…..

Feeling my angst about all the missed photo opportunities, Mel offered to go finish the errands after our walk and come back to get me when I had gotten my fill! Sweet!

The most interesting discovery on this picture walk, hands down, was a duck I have never ever seen before. It looked kind of like a mallard, but the coloring was all wrong. Not only that, it looked like it had on a hairpiece! Seriously! It had this curly white tuft on top of its head. Too weird, I thought.  

It was hard to get a good picture, though, because my little wigged friend was standing in the deepest of shade. I kept taking pictures, though hoping that at least one would be good enough to use.

I had a bit of an intellectual challenge figuring out how to look up information on this unusual bird. I think I ended up with “mallard with tuft on top of its head” and that ultimately led me to “crested mallard”. The information I found on this bird anomaly was both fascinating and disturbing:

“…the unusual crest on this mallard’s head is actually caused by a genetic mutation which causes a duck to be born with a gap in its skull. The gap is filled with a growth of fatty tissue, and it is from this growth that the pouf of feathers sprout. The crested gene in these ducks is linked to a lethal condition during incubation. Ducklings carrying both genes (homozygous) for the crest do not survive to hatch. Of those that do hatch, about 1/3 of them will not have crests.”

I was surprised to find out that in spite of the nature of this mutation (a gap in the skull) that this cresting feature has been bred into ducks for thousands of years! Paintings as old as 2000 years have depicted images of a bird, resembling a duck with an assortment of feathers on top of its skull!  Crested ducks are still bred today.  The bird I found at Crescent Lake was undoubtedly wild, but may have had a domesticated parent with the crested gene. Or maybe he was a genuine mutant. At any rate, this duck looked like he came from a family with a very checkered family history because the feathers on his neck and other parts of his body just didn’t add up to a typical mallard!! (If you’re interested in more information or want to find more odd pictures of crested ducks, there’s plenty on the Internet, including arguments against breeding for this trait.)

Other fun birds on today’s two walks included birds I rarely or never see: blue winged teals, greater (or lesser) scaups (I can’t tell them apart), a green heron, American Coots, and several Monk Parakeets.


Crested Mallard

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