For the second year in a row, a rare hybrid duck has decided to spend the winter at Ashbridges Bay on Toronto’s waterfront. Last year, this male duck, or drake, was still a juvenile and had a juvenile’s dull-colored plumage. This year, it has acquired its adult breeding plumage, and, as the photo above shows, it’s a remarkable looking bird, with a dramatic black crest and rust-coloured flanks.
Its parentage brought together two very different types of duck. The Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) is a broad-shouldered bruiser of a diving duck patterned in black and white. It has a blunt bill shaped like a rubber doorstop.
The Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus), on the other hand, is a more petite duck with a knitting-needle of a bill and a flamboyant crest, which it can raise or lower according to mood.
Our hybrid duck, which perhaps we should call the Hooded Goldeneye, will spend its life working through its own peculiar identity crisis. As things stand now, sometimes it associates with the Common Goldeneyes, and at other times, it hangs with the Hooded Mergansers. Even though it’s probably sterile, that doesn’t mean this duck won’t try to mate. On what side of the species divide will it choose to partner? Stay tuned for further developments.
Another word …
I mentioned in my last post that an article of mine on “Thin Places” had been accepted for publication in the online magazine The Journal of Wild Culture. That issue has now appeared, and, if curious, you can read the essay here.