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Improper Duck Relationships? No. VA, USA (1 Viewer)


Well-known member
United States
The males ducks in this photo that I took yesterday at Lake Fairfax, in Northern Virginia, are clearly wood ducks. But what kind of ducks are the females? They don't look like female wood ducks. (See the 2nd photo of a female wood duck.) To my poorly trained eye, they look like hooded mergansers. Are they? And if so, what are they doing cavorting with male wood ducks. I'm not sure I approve.


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I've attached a cropped, higher-resolution version of the first photo to give you a better look at the females.


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They might just be friends? Somewhat relieved that when opening the post there were no physical improper duck relations on display ... phew.

(Ducks of different species do of course mix ... did these swim out of the shoreline vegetation? When disturbed of course they'll all swim out. It is a possibility the female Wood Ducks are already on the nest, depending on your spring (they nest early))
There were a lot of different ducks, all intermingled. But, when I took this photo, these seven ducks were off by themselves. It reminded me of stories I've heard of men from one hunter-gathering tribe kidnapping a group of females from a different tribe to bring back home as wives. I kinda think that wood ducks don't feel the need to broaden their genetic diversity, though.

So are the females hooded mergansers? For that matter, is the rightmost female the same species as the other two?
The hooded mergansers are all female-type, viz. female or immature male (not juvenile - it's too late for last year's and too early for this year's). They might be sexable, but not by me.
BIrds of all sorts are commonly in mixed-species groups. All normal.
Of the three Hooded Mergansers, the one furthest to the right has a bill with a pale base and has an eye that is brown; I believe that makes it a female. The other two have solid black bills and yellow eyes; I believe that makes them males.

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