A very unique and rare visitor to Texas has recently been spotted at Sunset Bay in White Rock Lake Park, the American Black Duck (Anas rubripes). The bird is being seen in company of Mallards near trail marker 176L
This bird is so rare to Texas that the Texas Birds Record
Committee (TBRC) only recognizes 9 historical sightings, with one pending
verification. The previous records for
this species are concentrated in North Texas, East Texas and the Texas Coast. American
Black Ducks are large ducks with a profile nearly identical to Mallards. They
have rounded heads, thick bills, and bulky bodies. Like other dabbling ducks
they sit high in the water with their tails high. American Black Ducks have
very dark brown bodies with pale gray-brown heads and yellow-green bills.
Females tend to be slightly paler than males, with duller olive bills. In
flight, the underwings are bright white. The secondaries (speculum) are
iridescent purple without white borders.
The American Black Duck is considered to be locally abundant
along the East Coast, but increasingly rare as you move west. The overall population is not doing well and
is declining rapidly. This is due to two
interconnected factors. Much of this
forest loving species habitat has been cut during logging operations. This
forest clearing is heavily favored by its close cousin, the Mallard. Mallards will readily breed with American
Black Ducks, and you get a genetic “swamping” effect.
This dabbling duck is omnivorous. This means it floats on the surface, and
ducks its head down in the water with the tail feathers sticking up, trying to
see what they can catch. It might be
seeds and roots, it might be small clams, crustaceans and mussels. They are also known to walk around on land
pulling up roots and picking at seeds.
If you see this bird, you are seeing a true wildlife rarity
for this area. Be respectful of the bird
and others that may be enjoying the opportunity. Do not harass the bird or other birds that
may be in the vicinity. This includes
not feeding the waterfowl and keeping your pets on a leash.
Take some time and enjoy the variety of other
bird species wintering in and around White Rock Lake Park including Bald Eagle,
Harris’ Sparrow, American Goldfinch and the numerous waterfowl on the lake