Verification of Unusual Sight Record
For Utah

Rec. # 2014-007

Common name:

American Black Duck

Scientific name: Anus rubripes
Date: 3/18/2014
Time: 10:00 am
Length of time observed: 20 minutes
Number: 1
Age: Adult
Sex: Male
Location: Pelican Lake - Southeast corner of lake near pumping outlet
County: Uintah
Latilong: 40 11' 27'' 109 40'52''
Elevation: 4810
Distance to bird: 30 meters to 250 meters
Optical equipment: Swarovski 10X42 Binos, Swarovski 20-60X60 Spotting Scope
Weather: Partly Cloudy, light winds, cold (38).
Light Conditions: Good lighting. Sun was shining in this area. Sun was at my back while observing the duck.
Description:        Size of bird: Size of a Mallard - Observed next to Mallard drake and hens.
(Description:)       Basic Shape: Basic shape was a puddle duck shape. Similar to Mallard
(Description:)  Overall Pattern: First look was a dark body with lighter head and next. Head was a light tan color, body dark brown overall.
(Description:)            Bill Type: Duck bill - dark yellowish color.
Field Marks and
Identifying Characteristics:
First observed the duck swimming with three Mallards (2 hens, 1 drake) at 30 meters. I first noticed the dark body and light head/neck in contrast to the hen Mallards. Did not resemble a drake Mallard at all other than size. Bill was a dark yellow in color. The body was dark brown overall but with a patterns on the body feathers. The top of the head was slightly darker than the rest of the head and neck and there was a distinctive eye-stripe. After 1-2 minutes of observation as the ducks swam directly away from me, the ducks flew a short distance. At this time I was able to observe the wings. There were no white borders above or below the blue speculum. This field mark was definitely an American Black Duck. The ducks landed farther away (200-250 meters)and continued swimming directly away. I tried to get a photo at this point but the duck was too far away.
(see photo)
Song or call & method of delivery:  
Behavior: The American Black Duck stayed with one hen Mallard as they swam. It stayed away from the drake Mallard and never went within 10-15 meters. At times, both hen Mallards were with the American Black Duck. The ducks appeared to be feeding along the reed edges and open water.
Habitat: Marsh along edge of lake.
Similar species and how
were they eliminated:
The most similar species is a Mallard, especially the hen. I eliminated a hen Mallard based on comparison with the obvious hen Mallard the duck was swimming with. The bill color was a dark yellow color and not orange like the hen Mallard. The hen Mallard also did not have a distinct difference in color between the head/neck and the rest of the body. The lack of white on the top and bottom edges of the blue speculum also eliminated the Mallard. Mallards have white on both the top and bottom edges of the blue speculum. It was not a drake Mallard based on lack of green head, red breast, and overall body color and pattern.
Previous experience with
this & similar species:
I saw numerous American Black Ducks while living in coastal New England (Massachusetts, New Hampshire) for a year. I observed Mallards and American Black Ducks together in more than one occasion that allowed for comparison of the species.
References consulted: Sibley Field Guide.
Description from: Notes taken at the time of the sighting
Observer: Brian Maxfield
Observer's address: HC 65 Box 81 Altonah Utah 84002
Observer's e-mail address: **
Other observers who independently identified this bird:  
Date prepared: 3/20/2014
Additional material: photo (submitted on 25 Mar 2014)