Thank you to my most reliable pair of DBQ devotees: Mary Wright and John Stanton, who both proffered answers to this week’s quiz. Both Mary and John id’d one bird as a Greater Scaup, and I concur that our Bird B is indeed a scaup. Whether it’s a Greater or Lesser is actually rather tough to tell from this photo alone. At least for me. Take a look at these photos and decide. I would argue that from the angle we have on our Bird B, it would be a tall order to tell.
As for Bird A, I side with Mary on this one. I think this is a Long-tailed Duck (non politically correct name: “Oldsquaw”). And based on the pink area on the middle of the bill, I think it’s a male. Long-tailed Ducks are interesting for many reasons, not least is the remarkable difference in appearance between the breeding and non-breeding plumages (see photos). Further complicating matters, Long-tailed Duck males do not proceed in an orderly fashion from one plumage to the other, but undergo a series of changes in variable fits and starts that make the months from April to October one endless wardrobe change for this species.
John, if you feel strongly about a Ring-necked Duck being one of these specimens, then let us have a duel. I will meet you at daybreak on the cliffs of Weehawken. (Sorry, Alexander Hamilton humor, which I suspect is not universally appreciated.)