Google+

1-2-3 Easy Duck I.D.

Consider this common bag limit for ducks in Mississippi flyway states this season. The daily limit is six overall. However, the total cannot include more than: four mallards of which no more than two may be hens; three scaup; three wood ducks; two pintails; two redheads; two canvasbacks; and/or one black duck.

Of the ducks commonly seen and hunted here, that means a limit could include or be comprised entirely of blue-winged teal, green-winged teal, gadwall, wigeon, bufflehead, ruddy ducks, shovelers, ring-necked ducks, and/or goldeneye. Then there is a separate limit of five mergansers of which not more than two may be hooded mergansers.

Enjoying duck hunting to the fullest and staying within the law demands hunters learn and improve on-the-wing identification skills. This is a burden to some would be duckers, as one of the most commonly cited reasons for giving up the game is complex regulations. Yet for many devoted waterfowl hunters, mastering these skills is a highly enjoyable part of the pursuit. Some are proud to shoot only drakes of specific species like mallards or pintails. For others, collecting a wide variety of waterfowl species becomes a primary motivator. In either case, you have to know one duck from another! 123 Easy Duck ID 5

The first step in learning to I.D. ducks is to obtain a pocket-sized guide like “Ducks at a Distance” — a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service publication largely available for free from various duck conservation groups. Most printed state waterfowl hunting regulations also include excerpts from this same book. Study and challenge your hunting buddies, even your spouse and kids, to identify the ducks in the book. As a diehard waterfowl hunter my whole life, I’ve even cut up these books to hand make flashcard decks presented to friends for their newborn children — best to start them right, no?

The first things to learn are the habit, habitat, and physical characteristic differences between puddle ducks and diving ducks. Common puddlers are mallards, pintail, teal, wood ducks, gadwall (aka gray ducks), wigeon, shoveler, teal, mottled ducks, and black ducks. Common divers include ringnecks, scaup, redheads, canvasbacks, goldeneye, bufflehead, and ruddy ducks. There are also tree ducks and marine (sea) ducks, but they are so different and so regionally specific, it’s best to start with the basics.

Always take your pocket guide to the field with you, as it’s also a great tool to assist in-hand confirmation of the birds you shoot.

With the basics in hand, it’s time to take your knowledge into the field and practice. Identifying what you see is most easily done by running through a mental checklist.

Location & Timing

Where are you hunting? In a field set you’ll seldom encounter diving ducks. On large bodies of open water and large marshes, you’ll encounter more diving ducks. In the timber, you’ll see far more puddlers than divers.

For example, black ducks and hen mallards can look similar, but consider where you’re hunting and the frequency of black ducks in that area — i.e. you won’t be decoying many black ducks in a cornfield spread in central North Dakota.

Likewise some ducks migrate earlier than others. Chances of seeing blue-winged teal in Alberta in mid-October are slim.

Comparative Size

Are the birds you’re looking at big ducks, medium to small ducks, or tiny ducks? Big ducks are mallards, pintails, black ducks, canvasbacks, and redheads. Medium to small ducks are gadwall, wigeon, wood ducks, shovelers, ringnecks, scaup, and goldeneye. Tiny ducks are blue-winged teal, cinnamon teal, green-winged teal, bufflehead and ruddy ducks.

Wingbeat Patterns

In general, puddle ducks appear to beat their wings more slowly than diver ducks in sustained flight, given similar conditions. And the wing beat of puddlers looks to have deeper strokes than divers. Divers beat their wings with short, rapid strokes.

With experience, you’ll even be able to notice wing beat rhythms and flight patterns of individual species within the two broad categories. On quiet days, you’ll be able to hear different sounds ducks’ wings make. Goldeneyes are called whistlers because of the sound of their wings — a distinct whistle. Any hunter who’s experienced bluebills dropping from the sky into a lake will never forget the fighter jet sound of the scaups’ feathers tearing the air.

Coloring

While coloring is the most distinctive characteristic of differing species, it’s also the most deceiving particularly in low light. It’s easy to see the beautiful, raucous colors of a drake wood duck on a pond in bright afternoon sun. It’s far more difficult to discern those hues on a flock of birds darting through tree limbs a half hour before sunrise.

Just ask the hunter who is convinced he shot a drake mallard on a gray drizzly day, but whose dog comes back with a Suzie! I’ve been that hunter, and sent the dog on a couple more fruitless searches because I was convinced she’d picked up someone else’s cripple. No matter how experienced you are, if you rely on color as your primary identifier, you’ll get fooled, especially in early season with ducks in eclipse plumage. 123 Easy Duck ID 1

Silhouettes & Profiles

The surest way to accurately identify ducks in flight is to learn silhouettes. Each species has a distinctive shape and placement of white in its color scheme. It can be the shape of the duck’s head such as the canvasback’s long, sloping profile from head into bill. Overall body shapes are distinctive, too, such as the wood duck that appears to have had its tail cut square.

Identifying ducks by silhouette and white markings is something you simply must learn and practice. Distinguishing between scaup (aka bluebills) and ringneck ducks in flight is tough. Size, silhouette, wing beat, and flight pattern are similar. Markings on the head and bill are distinctly different, but these can be hard to see at speed and distance. By studying identification guides you learn that when viewed from below, both sexes of ringnecks displays large patches of gray/white on the forward portion of their underwings. Bluebills have smaller white patches at the rear of both upper and under wing surfaces. It’s subtle, but key.

Telltale Signs

Here are a few shortcuts to identifying certain species:

To identify drake mallards in low light, look for the white ring around their necks. This stands out except in the most juvenile or early plumage birds.

Pintails, even hens and drakes without a sprig, present a very long, thin profile in flight. Their necks especially seem skinny compared to other ducks.

Black ducks look big and dark in flight. The snowy underside of their wings starkly contrasts with the darkness of their other plumage.

Mergansers are also called “saw bills.” True fish eaters, their bills are long, narrow, and serrated. This thin bill is easily identified in flight and makes them appear dart-like compared to all broad billed ducks.

The small size of teal makes them seem fast, but it’s an illusion. The fastest duck is the largest diver — the canvasback. When ripping over the cattails, teal exhibit an almost bat-like erratic flight pattern.

The silhouette of the wood duck exhibits a squared off tail.

Gadwalls have a white speculum patch at the rear of their wings — the only puddle duck so marked.

Entertainment

Prodigal Daughter Tries to Reconcile with Estranged Dad in Haunting Parable of Biblical Proportions

  The Levelling Film Review by Kam Williams Prodigal Daughter Tries to Reconcile with Estranged Dad in Haunting Parable of Biblical Proportions It's not very clear whether Harry Catto's (Joe Blakemore) death was a murder or a suicide. One thing's for certain, though. It wasn't merely a mishap, because nobody accidentally sticks a gun in his own mouth and pulls the trigger. The cops suspect that he killed himself, but his father (David … [Read More its Good for You.....]

Books

The President’s Kitchen Cabinet

  The President's Kitchen Cabinet The Story of the African-Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, from the Washingtons to the Obamas by Adrian Miller University of North Carolina Press Hardcover, $30.00 292 pages, Illustrated ISBN: 978-1-4696-3253-7 Book Review by Kam Williams “[This opus] vividly tells the stories of the African-Americans who worked in the presidential food service as chefs, personal cooks, butlers, stewards … [Read More its Good for You...]

Art

The Day After the Day Of

  The Day After the Day Of by Paul Ilechko   The sky sheds its tears. This morning is the morning of the day after. The day of mourning, the day after the day of.  I beseech the sky to shed tears in order to wash away the tears on my face.   This is the first day of the time after. This is the beginning of a new time, the days of pain, the days of sorrow. We are in mourning. The sky looks down and sheds its tears for … [Read More its Good For You...]

Real Estate

History Being Sold to the Highest Bidder

  History Being Sold to the Highest Bidder by Amy Lignor   For the longest time, scientists and archaeologists have been confused and bemused by various discoveries they’ve unearthed that offer little or no explanation as to the who, what, and why of the people who created these things or left them behind. Even now, in 2017, there are discoveries being studied; stories that were once legends now have actual bits of proof being found that … [Read More its Good for You.....]

Lifestyle

Badinage with Brother Hodge!

  Aldis Hodge  The “Underground / Hidden Figures” Interview with Kam Williams Badinage with Brother Hodge! Aldis Hodge is perhaps best known for his role as Alec Hardison on the TNT series Leverage which nabbed a People's Choice Award in 2013, in addition to his role as MC Ren in  Straight Outta Compton. Furthermore, he starred in the Amazon pilot The After and enjoyed a recurring role on the AMC Revolutionary War drama Turn: … [Read More its Good for You...]

Outdoors

Lowrance Continues to Dominate After 60 Years

  Lowrance Continues to Dominate After 60 Years  For six decades, the iconic brand Lowrance has led the fishing and boating industries in product innovation and customer service, supported professional anglers around the globe and dominated the tournament trail. But how did it all begin? Founded by Darrell J. Lowrance, the company revolutionized the fishing industry with the design and manufacture of the original FISH LO-K-TOR – the … [Read More its Good for You...]

Sports

Will NASCAR Theatrics Bring Back Viewers?

  Will NASCAR Theatrics Bring Back Viewers? by Amy Lignor   For any of the millions who once watched ABC’s Wide World of Sports and heard the words “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat,” they remember the footage of a skier’s crash when it came to the “agony” side of things. Everyone knew that sight was a fact – a video that was absolutely real. Nowadays, however, it seems that more and more sports are “making up” shots that … [Read More its Good for You...]

Business

How Are Retail Sales in 2017?

  How Are Retail Sales in 2017? E-Commerce Reigns by Amy Lignor   Despite consumer uncertainty, as well as a very sluggish beginning to 2017, the U.S. retail sales industry is projected to increase 4% this year. Headlines show that many retailers and companies posted “soft” holiday sales to end 2016, which caused some notable retailers to either cut jobs or close stores as a result. However, when it comes to 2017, the National … [Read More its Good for You...]

Travel

Where to Vacation? Go Big or Stay Home!

  Where to Vacation? Go Big or Stay Home! by Amy Lignor   We speak about luxury vacations, budget vacations, vacations that are fun for the kids, and many more areas of travel at this time of year. But there is also a category that many do not touch upon because they “assume” it is far too difficult for those on a budget to be able to enjoy these jaw-dropping wonders. However, whether you are a backpacker looking to “become a … [Read More its Good for You...]

Green Living

Creating the Perfect Vegetable Garden

  Creating the Perfect Vegetable Garden by Amy Lignor   Many are still dealing with that wintery mix Mother Nature just loves to toss down from the sky this time of year. Yet, that gardener living inside the soul – the one just dreaming of the sunny skies and lazy rainy days that are must-haves in order to grow the best vegetables possible – is already jotting down the facts, tricks and tips they need to know in order to make that … [Read More its Good for You...]