[Tweeters] Blue-billed Mallard at Larsen Lake

Joshua Glant josh.n.glant at gmail.com
Tue Sep 15 16:51:53 PDT 2015


Hello Tweets,

On Sunday afternoon, I visited Larsen Lake in the Lake Hills Greenbelt in Bellevue (eBird checklist soon to come) to try and spot a wigeon. Not for my FOS, since I had seen a few at the Montlake Fill the day before, but because they're among my favorite ducks (especially Eurasians), and Larsen Lake was a good spot for some great confiding views of American Wigeons last time I came in winter.

As it turns out, I was perhaps a bit over-optimistic about early-returning waterfowl, for did not see wigeons, but I was happy to see my FOS Ring-necked Duck (a female), FOS Wood Ducks (female and eclipse male?), Yellow-rumps and a White-crowned Sparrow. Winter is indeed coming! Also, a juvenile Cooper's Hawk swooped out of a surprisingly low and thick bush 5 feet away, so that was fun.

Anyways, there was a flotilla of molting and neat Mallards on the Lake. I didn't pay too much attention to them, until I saw a pair of eclipse males swimming to shore near me. One of them had a normal yellow bill - but the other's bill was a pale sky blue!

They came closer and closer, and walked right past me, perhaps seeking food (a couple people were feeding them). Then, they ambled up the gravel trail, and I had to leave. I got a few photos which I will post later.

Question is, what caused this baby-blue bill? I read a source that stated that it's the mark of an immature male; another said that some eclipse males can achieve this color; and yet another said that this is the result of hybridization (though this looks like a pure bird to me, with no obvious traces of something like a wigeon).

Question is, is the answer A, B, C or an as-of-yet unspoken D? I look forward to hearing responses, and for now I will upload a terrible phone screenshot of my camera screen to tide you over until I can upload better pictures for your viewing pleasure.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/132642556@N03/21459785151/

Thanks and good birding, Joshua Glant

Mercer Island, WA

Josh.n.glant at gmail.com
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