Tuesday 27 December 2016

Spot-billed Duck x Mallard hybrids

The Spot-billed x Mallard hybrid combination isn't one I would once have expected to be surprised to see. However, prior to this trip to Kanazawa where I found two males on a 300-metre stretch of river, I'd only ever seen three. Of course you could argue that Spot-bill x Mallard hybrid males aren't as eye-catching as the males of many other pairings and therefore more likely to escape attention but they are distinctive enough not to be mistaken for anything else.

Even if I have overlooked a few it seems a fairly safe bet these two birds on the same stretch of river are siblings. Below are three images of the first bird I came across.

And this is the second...

The next image is of a bird in Kyoto city four years ago. Straight out of the same mould, it seems this is what this hybrid looks like. But are hybrids ever quite that straight forward?

Not really. The first hybrid I ever saw looks far more like a Mallard. Even more interesting is that this male was with a hybrid female and they were behaving like a pair in mid-March. I confess I don't know for certain that the female is a Mallard x Eastern Spot-billed hybrid however size and the extensive white on the outer web of the hidden longest tertial suggest this is a reasonable assumption.

An apparent pair of Mallard x Eastern Spot-billed Duck hybrids.

The male of the 'pair' looking far more like a Mallard than any of the previous hybrid males.

The female of the hybrid 'pair'.

There were plenty of 'real' Eastern Spot-billed Ducks on the river but very few Mallard, so I'll just close with a pair of Spot-bills...

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