Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2006-03

Common name:

Fulvous Whistling-duck

Scientific name: Dendrocygna bicolor
Date: January 21, 2006
Time: 2:15 pm
Length of time observed: 45 minutes
Number: 3
Age: adult
Sex: unknown
Location: Marshy pond on the north side of Forest Street (Bear River Refuge Road), 1/2-3/4 mile west of I-15 at exit 363, 200 feet west of and across the road from the temporary refuge information center.
County: Box Elder
Latilong: 2 (N 41*30.591, W112*04.528)
Elevation: 4200 ft
Distance to bird: 75-100ft
Optical equipment: Zeiss 85 mm Diascope w/20-60x eyepiece; Celestron 8 x 42 Noble binoculars
Weather: Partly cloudy to light overcast
Light Conditions: Light overcast; no glare
Description:        Size of bird: Medium-sized duck
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Football body
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: Orangy rust on head/neck, all underparts except undertail coverts behind the vent. Blackish-brown edged in rust on mantle, scapulars.
(Description:)            Bill Type: Duck bill; laterally flattened; slightly concave maxilla
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
Medium-size orange and black ducks; all three were virtually identical.

Bare parts: bills, legs, and orbital skin were grayish/steel blue. Nails on bills were black and covered approximately 25 percent of the width of the end of the bill. In profile view, nails appeared to "drip" or curve down a little lower than the lower mandible.

Heads and necks: Crowns were angular with a slight point over the eye and a more obvious higher point over the back of the crown, reminiscent of Lesser Scaup. Overall impression was like that of a military high and tight haircut with slightly rounded sides. The base color of the
crown feathers appeared to be the same orangy color as the faces with a slight amount of fine brown streaking. Irides were brown. Faces, chins, throats, necks were orangy, with the exception of a whitish indistinct feather ring at the base of the neck, visually separating the neck from the football- shaped body. Just below the aft point of the crown (slightly down the back of the head), a black stripe began as an elongated point and widened to cover the back of the neck as the stripe proceeded down to the back.

Upperparts: Base color of the back feathers (to include mantle and scapulars) was a dark blackish-brown. Uniform rusty-orange feather edges were apparent at the top feathers of the back near the neck, but the edges became more widely spaced toward the tail and then petered out entirely. Only blackish-brown wingtips could be seen ending just above the tail. Tail itself was a stubby little thing, just barely longer than the wingtips, and blackish brown at the distal end. Uppertail coverts were whitish.

Underparts: Breast, sides, belly, and part of the vent area aft of the legs was orangy. Undertail coverts were whitish, from about halfway between the vent to the end of the tail. Flanks were diagonally striped cream and orangy rust. One of the ducks (and this is the only difference
between any of the three) also showed a thin blackish edge to the white flank stripes.

Did not see the upper or underside of the wings, except for dark folded wingtips. See photo for Paul Higgins' flight shot.

None of the three ducks had leg bands, collars, or any other type of markings that could be seen.
(see photos)
Song or call & method of delivery: None hear
Behavior: The three birds stood together in or at the edge of the water standing on one foot each with their heads tucked into their scapulars. They also meandered (either walked or one seemed to wade and push through the muck) together. They frequently dipped their heads and necks down laying nearly parallel to the water and in line with their bodies so as to be almost horizontal. They laid just the lower mandibles of their bills in the water or marsh, just barely opening and closing their
bills and moving their heads slightly from side-to-side, appearing to strain water/muck like shovelers do.
Habitat: Shallow, marshy farm pond surrounded by 1-2 foot high tussocks of brown grass
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
Black-bellied Whistling Duck: Review species did not have the black bellies/flanks of the BBWD and all review species' bare parts were grayish-blue, as opposed to the bright orange bills or pink feet of the BBWD.

Both Wigeon hens (rusty-colored): Review birds did not have the bulky head shape of either wigeon species. Review birds also had blackish-brown upperparts with uniform rusty feather edges on the upper backs, becoming absent toward the tail.. Both female wigeon have an indistinct mottled grayish-rust pattern on their backs.

Cinnamon Teal drake: Cinnamon Teal is almost all rich, dark rust, whereas the review species had blackish backs with rusty barring. Review birds also had stubby tails and whitish upper and undertail coverts; the only pale color to be found on a drake Cinnamon Teal is on the wings
(never saw the review birds' wings).

Ruddy Shelduck: Review species did not appear to look like a chubby, overweight duck. Review species head was orangy, as opposed to buffy-yellowish of Ruddy Shelduck. Review species had grayish-blue bare parts, as opposed to black of Ruddy Shelduck. Back of review species was blackish with rusty barring, as opposed to orange.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
No previous experience with review species. Have seen BBWD land in oak trees in the Texas Hill Country and in marshy areas around San Antonio, TX. I see hen American Wigeon annually. I might not know a hen European Wigeon if I fell over her. I see Cinnamon Teal annually; have not seen a Ruddy Shelduck.
References consulted: Sibley, National Geo 2nd Ed.
Description from: Notes taken at time of sighting
Observer: Kristin M. Purdy
Observer's address: 1961 Arapaho Circle, Ogden, UT 84403
Observer's e-mail address:
Other observers who independently identified this bird: Paul Higgins, Randy Chatelain, Betsy Beneke, Marie Reed, Glenn Barlow, Cindy and Steve Sommerfeld, Bob McDougal
Date prepared: January 21, 2006
Additional material: Photos
Additional comments: