Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the ring-necked duck.
It’s a great time of year to check out waterfowl on the lakes of Pagosa Springs. As the ice clears to open water, many migrating ducks stop to rest and feed. When trying to identify a duck out on a lake or pond, it is often helpful to figure out its color pattern. It is especially helpful to find any white markings. When visibility is otherwise difficult, the white markings seem to pop out.
For our bird of the week, this tip is especially helpful. The male ring-necked duck has a distinctive whitish-gray shape on its side. Some of our local birders say it reminds them of a whale. In addition, there is a white band around the base and midway down its gray bill. The bill tip is black. These markings contrast with the rest of its shiny black body.
The female is a rich brown, with the same black-tipped and white-banded gray bill. She has a white ring around her eye. The heads of these ducks have a distinctive peaked shape.
Look for these birds diving deeply to feed on plants and invertebrates. They’re seen in pairs or flocks that include other duck species.