Ornithology 2 Summary (Spring 2014)

If you miss a class, please check this page and study the listed topics in your field guide. Click here for last semester's calendar.

Note: Please park in the Hayes Street Parking lot. All spaces are available except disabled and reserved drop off for the child care center. If the lot is full and you park in the Grove Street lot you will likely get a parking ticket unless you display the temporary parking passes which have been emailed to all registered students. These passes must be stamped by the John Adams office!

Class notes by Elisabeth Koster are here. (Plumage and molt terminology here. )
Please register at
eBird and email me your eBird ID. I can then offer to share field trip lists with you.

Click here for a summary of bird name changes from the 53rd AOU supplement.
Click here for a summary of bird name changes from the 54th AOU supplement.

My page and photo links for the Oriental Bird Club.
Cornell reviews Best Birding Binoculars
Marsh Sandpiper account.


April 23, 2014
We plan to complete and review the quail on page 54.

Click here, here and here for my photos and notes on Gambel's Quail, California Quail and Mountain Quail in California. Click here for my photo of California Quail chicks.

Recommended reading:


April 16, 2014
We complete and reviewed the ducks on page 48.

Ruddy Duck photo is here. Click here for a photo and commentary on a dark-headed Ruddy Duck in Ventura.


April 9, 2014
We completed and reviewed the mergansers on pages 44-46.

Click here for a video and photo of the Smew at Tracy. Luke Cole's poetic account of not seeing this bird is here. Additional Smew imagess from California here, here. My photos and full details.
Click here for my Common Merganser photo from Golden Gate Park. 22 March 2007 - Lloyd Lake, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California. This bird prefers deep lakes and rivers. It is seldom encountered within the city limits of San Francisco. This individual was found this morning by one of my students and generated considerable local interest. I saw and photographed it late this afternoon. The North American subspecies, M. m. americanus differs from nominate Eurasian populations (sometimes called Goosander) by its smooth, not peaked forehead; and straight feathering between the forehead and the gape, not forming a triangle. Also the bill averages brighter, the nostril more centrally located and the plumage of females slightly darker on americanus than on nominate birds. Here, the wind is blowing up the bird's back crest feathers. Photo is resized, but not cropped and not sharpened. Olympus D-550z / Nikon FieldScope 3 / 30XWA (hand-held - no adapter).
Additional Common Merganser photo here.


March 26, 2014
We plan to complete and review the ducks on page 44.

Presumed Bufflehead X Hooded Merganser and Bufflehead X Common Goldeneye.

Click here for photos and detailed discussion of female goldeneye identification. Click here for photo and discussion of a female Common Goldeneye. More Goldeneye comparisons. Sibley on female goldeneyes and on hybrid goldeneyes.

Click here, here, here here, and here for my photos of an apparent hybrid Barrow's Goldeneye X Hooded Merganser at Lake Merritt. My article on this bird appeared in Western Birds 36:279-282, 2005. (Click here for a pdf of this paper and here for the back cover photos). Additional photo here.

Click here for a video and photo of the Smew at Tracy. Luke Cole's poetic account of not seeing this bird is here. Additional Smew imagess from California here, here. My photos and full details.


March 19, 2014
We completed and reviewed the scoters on page 42.

Surf Scoters off the Cliff House.
Black Scoter in Shasta County


March 12, 2014
We completed and reviewed the ducks on page 40.

Click here and here for my photos of a male Harlequin Ducks at Oyster Point and Coyote Point. My photos from Pt. Reyes and Daly City are here and here. Another Harlequin Duck from Marin is here. Further information on the status of Harlequin Duck in California is here.
Click here for a photo of a Long-tailed Duck in Berkeley. Additional Long-tailed Duck photos are here, here, here, here, here and here.


March 5, 2014
We completed and reviewed the eiders on page 38.

Click here, here and here for discussion and photos of California's first Common Eider.
Click here for discussion and photos of a King Eider at Point Reyes.


February 26, 2014
We completed and reviewed the ducks on page 36.

Click here for a photo of an apparent Ring-necked Duck X Scaup sp. My photos of hybrid Ring-necked X Scaup sp. are here, here and here. Discussion of this hybrid is here.
Click here for photos and discussion of variation in Tufted Ducks. Click here, here, here, here, here and here (Oakland, California 2/14/04) for my photos of Tufted Duck. Click here, here, here, here, here and here for more Tufted Duck photos.
Click here for photos and discussion of controversial scaup. Click here for photos by Paul Donahue illustrating identification of male Greater and Lesser Scaup. Greater and Lesser Scaup at Lake Merrit.


February 19, 2014
We completed and reviewed the ducks on page 34.

Canvasback at Lake Merrit
Click here for photos of two Common Pochards at Bolsa Chica which we discussed in class.
Female Redhead at Lake Merrit.
Click here and here for photos of male and female Ring-necked Ducks in Golden Gate Park.


February 12, 2014
We reviewed the ducks on pages 30 and 32.

December 18, 2013
We completed the ducks on page 32.

My Blue-winged Teal photo: 17 January 2006 - Leonabell Turnbull Birding Center, Port Aransas, Texas. Our next stop was the Port Anansas Birding Center. This extensive marsh and boardwalk had a massive concentration of waterfowl which were attempting to shelter from the wind. Some of these birds were very close to the end of the boardwalk where I took this uncropped photo.
Same bird: Here is an extreme closeup of a male Blue-winged Teal. This uncropped photo shows the reddish eye and violet iridescence to the head.
Same bird: Here is the previous Blue-winged Teal preening. This uncropped photo shows details of the wing pattern: powder blue coverts which give this species its name, and dark green secondaries. Extreme closeups such as this offer fine detail at the cost of reduced depth of field. Here the tail is slightly blurry. Who can identify the second duck in the picture? Olympus D-550z / Nikon FieldScope 3 / 30XWA (hand-held - no adapter).

Click here for my photo of molting Cinnamon Teal: 11 June 2008, Adobe Creek, Mountain View Santa Clara County, California.

These striking males appear to be molting into a more drab "eclipse" plumage which they acquire in summer after nesting. The term "eclipse" is no longer considered useful because it is not acquired by a separate molt from the usual prealternate and prebasic molts of other birds, nor does it represent a separate third plumage which would require a special name. However, because male ducks have a bright plumage in winter and a drab plumage in summer/fall, there has been confusion about whether the so-called "eclipse" plumage is actually the basic or the alternate plumage. Ducks lose their flight feathers simultaneously and become flightless during the summer "eclipse" plumage. Since wing/tail molt signifies a complete prebasic molt, and because of the "eclipse" plumage's drab coloration similar to basic plumage in most other birds, it seems reasonable to conclude that the "eclipse" plumage is actually just basic plumage.

However, based on homologies with geese, Pyle (Waterbirds 28:208-219, 2005) showed that the drab "eclipse" plumage is apparently equivalent to the "alternate" plumage and the bright winter plumage is the basic plumage. In Pyle's scheme the complete wing/tail molt, which occurs in late summer and renders the ducks flightless, is part of the ensuing complete body molt which brings the males into a bright plumage in fall and winter. In my view, Pyle's argument is not particularly intuitive. Also it is contrary to the detailed plumage descriptions and molt names used by Palmer and by the widely used accounts in "Birds of North America." We are thus left with confusion in terminology. I could say these Cinnamon Teal are acquiring alternate plumage and the reader would not know if I am using terminology advocated by Pyle or the traditional terminology of Palmer. Is the bright cinnamon breeding color being lost or being acquired? The confusion in terminology fails to make clear what is going on. For this reason I have decided to continue using the word "eclipse" for the drab summer plumage of ducks. At least for now, there is a need for it to avoid the inevitable confusion inherent in using the traditional system or the new Pyle system.

This is the North American subspecies A. c. septentrionalium, which has a less ruddy plumage and stronger sexual dimorphism than other races which are found in South America. It is an uncommon breeder in Santa Clara County, mostly in freshwater habitats, but it does occasionally resort to brackish water as well. Panasonic DMC-LZ5 / Nikon FS 3 / 30XWA / hand-held, no adapter.

Two of my photos of a male and one of a female Blue-winged Teal at Shollenberger Park - 7 April 2003 are here (Yahoo Northbay Birds membership required).

A possible Cinnamon X Blue-winged Teal is here.

Claimed Garganeys from California are here and here. Neither of these birds are actually Garganeys; both are really Green-winged Teal, the first being probably a Eurasian race of Green-winged Teal. A photo of a real Garganey is here.


December 11, 2013

We completed and reviewed the ducks on page 30.

Click here for a photo of an immature male Eurasian Wigeon in San Francisco. Click here for my photo of an adult male Eurasian Wigeon at Lake Forest, Orange County.

This is an uncommon visitor to California, usually associating with flocks of American Wigeon. I captured this one stretching. If you look carefully, you can see that one foot is protruding between the primary wing feathers. The all white wing coverts indicate this is an adult male. Also note the green gloss to the speculum. Olympus D550z / Nikon FS3ED / 30X angled / hand-held.

My additional Eurasian Wigeon photos are here and here. Click here for my photo of a male Eurasian Wigeon in Japan. An Eclipse male Eurasian Wigeon is here. Click here & here for a Eurasian Wigeon at Las Gallinas and here for one at Albany.

The transverse black patch above the folded wing on adult male Northern Pintails appears to be comprised of lower scapulars. See photo here.