Saturday 15 February 2014

Tufted Duck/A Needle in a Haystack

Feb 15 2014 Iona Regional Park. Cold, overcast then torrential rain.

I was just about to sit down and watch the F.A. Cup tie between Chelsea and Man City when the news came in of a Tufted Duck at Iona Regional Park. Of course, having never seen one the game was put on PVR for later viewing and off I went.
On arrival many birders and a few photographers were mostly huddled around their cars discussing how wonderful it was to have seen the Tufted Duck. That can be ominous for the late arrivals like myself. Indeed, the bird had just flown a few minutes earlier, it would be another hour of searching before the very rare visitor from Eurasia was again spotted.
Talk about a needle in a haystack. The Tufted Duck resembles its close relative the Lesser Scaup except for a darker back and of course the long dangling tuft. Had it not been for a number of experienced birders armed with scopes I would have had difficulty locating this single bird out of the large flock of Lesser Scaup in the ponds.
Spot the Tufted Duck!

The Tufted Duck in the foreground  (Aythya fuligula)
Note the dark back  compared to the Lesser Scaup behind.

The long dangling tuft is not always visible so careful scanning of the flock is essential.

 As a group of us watched from a respectable distances as not to spook the birds our patience was rewarded when the group of birds containing the rarity drifted close and closer. We couldn't believe our luck. A few moments later and for some unknown reason a few of the birds including our quarry flew off to another pond and then a West Coast monsoon arrived driving all but the hardiest of us back to our cars and in my case, back to the football game.

The final score
Chelsea 0 Man City 2
Lesser Scaup 345 Tufted Duck 1

Good Birding (I'm going to dry off)
John Gordon


  1. 3 great images showing how challenging it was to spot it in the large floating flock, how it compares to its nearest relative and how distinct the tuft is. Well done, considering how fast the weather deteriorated on us.
    Colin Clasen, Coquitlam

  2. Great shot I saw him too and got soaking wet but it was worth it to see this rare Eurasian purebred.