Tufted Ducks

Two male Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula) have been spending the winter on the Columbia River near the Portland airport (Birding Oregon p. 63). One of these birds appears to be a Tufted Duck X scaup hybrid.

Bearing in mind that I have no experience with young Tufted Ducks, these are the features that cause me to question this bird’s parentage:

  • The back is a dark gray, not black as expected on a male Tufted Duck.
  • The sides are dingy, not brilliant white, but this is common on young Tufted Ducks.
  • The bill is virtually identical to that of a Greater Scaup. A Tufted Duck should show more black on the bill tip.
  • The tuft, though short, is very thick and stiff, not whispy as I would expect on a molting Tufted.

Here is the same bird with some Greater Scaups. Notice that the back is darker gray, but not really black, and the sides and bills of the two species are identical.

Here is an adult male Tufted Duck. Note the gleaming white sides and black back.

Adult Tufted Duck with female Common Goldeneye and some scaup.