Date: 3/25/21 2:47 pm From: Collins, Fred (Commissioner Pct. 3) <Fred.Collins...> Subject: [texbirds] Re: Mexican x Mottled Duck hybrid in Harris County?
I am skeptical about hybrid ducks in urban water bodies. Domestic "barnyard" ducks are Mallard in origin, who knows what genes lurk among them. They all hybridize readily. Mottled Ducks have begun to use these urban waters more extensively and no doubt are hybridizing with whatever ducks are there. Trying to assign these hybrids to origin is hazardous. Perhaps Mexican Ducks could turn up on the UTC but more likely in my opinion is that some random cross is more likely to resemble a Mexican Duck here than it is for one to fly here from the Rio Grande.
From: <texbirds-bounce...> <texbirds-bounce...> On Behalf Of Berner Family
Sent: Wednesday, March 24, 2021 11:31 AM
To: Texbirds <texbirds...>
Subject: [texbirds] Mexican x Mottled Duck hybrid in Harris County?
Letha Slagel photographed a tame pair of unusual ducks at Deputy GoForth/ Horsepen Creek Park in Harris County. Although the identity of the female is unclear (need pictures of speculum, tail in flight and back of the head) the male appears to be a hybrid Mexican x Mottled. The bird has characteristics of both species. The question is, are there any northern mallard components. I consulted Steve Mlodinow author of an ABA article on Mexican Ducks who feels it is a Mexican x Mottled Duck hybrid.
Comments and more photos of the clean orange billed female welcomed. Pair is tame and still present.
Be cautioned however there are at least three similar pairs throughout the lake plus other northern mallard combinations and domestic ducks . Two of the males in those similar pairs have a faint dark green sheen on the back of the head indicating Northern Mallard heritage but look similar from the side toLetha's bird.
This is obviously an identification area fraught with peril. You cannot identify some of these kinds of ducks. Here is Steve's note referring to the March 21 link below to Letha's photos
So, cutting to the answer, the male does look like a Mottled x Mexican Duck, a bird that is truly rare. One would assume the female the same, or perhaps a Mexican Duck, but I can't say much from these photos about her.
The speculum pattern and tail are fine for Mexican Duck, and the speculum is obviously wrong for Mottled Duck. The black at the gape is limited to the bill as far as I can tell, and does not actually involve the feathering. Mottled Ducks can have this pattern, or a spot of black feathering at the gape. Mexican Ducks can have a bit of black on the bill at the gape (not nearly as commonly as in Mottled Duck), as this bird does, and do sometimes have black feathering at the gape as well, though Mexican Ducks with black feathering at the gape have it as part of a thin line that extends down from the eyeline (different from the pattern in Mottled).
But, the pale face with limited dark markings is really classic for Mottled Duck and wrong for Mexican. While it is conceivable for a Mexican Duck to have such a pale face, I think the pale face combined with the dark at the gape really make a hybrid the most likely correct identification.