I was watching a ring-necked duck (Aythya collaris) on Hat Creek near Baum Lake (Shasta County CA). This species of duck does not usually congregate in flocks making is easy to observe an individual more closely.
When this lone male eventually decided to fly I was surprised at his “take-off”. Ring-necked ducks fly with rapid wingbeats on a direct course. I expected it to get airborne quicker without dragging its feet along the water for some distance.
I consider anyone who can identify ducks in flight quite skilled – definitely not one of my talents. Yet with the aid of a camera (and because I previously identified this bird as a ring-necked duck) the field markings are easily distinguished. Ring-necked males have tapered wings with light gray undersides, gray legs and a fan-shaped tail that is solid black on both the top and bottom. The bi-banded black bill, black back and black head are also visible.
Each species of duck has its unique take-off, landing and flight patterns – all fascinating.