[CT Birds] Tufted Duck Age and sex

julian hough jrhough1 at snet.net
Mon Feb 23 10:52:39 EST 2015

A great find by Tina of a stealth species that can easily go unnoticed in the large flocks of female-type Aythya's. As far as age and sex of this bird, given that many aythya ducks attain some adult-like appearance after the late autumn/early winter molt, had the bird been a male, I would have expected more male-like plumage features being present on this bird. The long head filaments did seem, in retrospect, to be long but probably within range of a female, especially an adult (?). 

Based on the fact that the bird looks like a female, has white under tail coverts (variable, with many females having dark under tail coverts, but white undertail coverts are lacking in males) bright yellow eye, long head filaments, it seemed a logical assumption by most of the birders gathered that this bird was a female. Proving the bird to be an adult would dismiss any issues of the birds sex, but at this time of year, when many juveniles have completed their partial, late winter molt, even adult-like features such as the bright yellow eye (duller in juveniles in late autumn) may not be useful for aging, since eye-color changes was the bird ages. Differentiating between retained juvenile feathers and new, adult-like feathers growing in seems very difficult in the field. According to Pyle, some althea's do not replace all of their juvenile tail feathers (but some might!) and so good photos showing worn, retained juvenile tail feathers may be a more
 visible clue to confirming and solidifying the age of this bird. 

Any comments by people who actually like ducks more than me or can add additional info are welcome.


Julian Hough 
New Haven, CT 06519 

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