You may know that at this time of year lots of black and white ducks – Buffleheads, Greater and Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Long-Tailed Ducks – show up on Lake Ontario. You may have heard that they dive for their food, eat a variety of mollusks, crustaceans, fish eggs, aquatic insects, sometimes even aquatic plants.
All very interesting, you say, but what everybody really wants to know about these black and white ducks is, “What colour are they?” I present here the results of my research on this complex issue.
Depending on the sun and wind, I found, a few of our study subjects may often be spotted keeping company with the multitudes of Canada Geese on one side or the other of the harbour breakwater. So off we go ….
As daylight brightens I approach the edge of the shore ice, hoping to spot some waterfowl.
A male Long-Tailed Duck is showing the earliest signs of the intricate brown patterns that it will wear when it reaches its summer nesting area on the arctic coast.
A female Long-Tailed Duck appears in the harbour channel, sporting a subtle palette of grays and browns.
A female Lesser Scaup* dressed in rich browns disappears and surfaces among the still slumbering geese.
In full sun a male Greater Scaup shows us why he’s nicknamed “Bluebill”.
He turns his head and gives us a flash of iridescent green.
Not to be outdone, a Common Goldeneye gives us the same green, and then throws in a free bonus colour.
Conclusion: Preliminary findings indicate that black and white ducks are blue, brown, gray, orange, yellow, purple and green. Further research is recommended.
Photo at top of page: Just focus on the duck (click here for full-screen view)
Greater and Lesser Scaup are known to be difficult to distinguish so I can’t guarantee which Scaups are pictured here. Even allaboutbirds.org authorizes this fudge: “It’s okay to record Greater/Lesser Scaup on your eBird checklist if you are unsure of the ID.”