Ugly Duck or Common Eider?

ugly ducks feet
Through a long process of elimination, I have finally decided that this is a juvenile and/or female Common Eider (a life-lister for me!). He was in the bay every day of the two weeks we were on Tahanto, and quickly became a familiar sight. Unfortunately, the name I first uttered at the sight of him stuck, and we all called him Ugly Duck.

ugly duck other
Even with limited internet access, you'd think such a distinctive face would be easy to identify. Nope. The coloring was a little off from the field guides, his size seemed far too small, and some of the behavior displayed by Ugly Duck remains puzzling still.

uglyduck closeup
A Common Eider is a diving duck. Our duck put his head under water all the time, but he that can't really be described as diving. He was rarely completely submerged. He'd stay under for a second or two at most.

ugly ducks feet 2
These enormous feet, which I didn't notice until he climbed onto this rock, were an additional and very helpful clue. The flap on the back of the webbed feet is characteristic of a Common Eider.

south beach eider display
This is not Ugly Duck, but is clearly the same species. This looks much more like a Common Eider, and even the pose is typical for Common Eiders. Eventually, we were all convinced that Ugly Duck was also a Common Eider. It is quite likely, however, that he is actually a she!


  1. You're right! This looks like a sub-adult male common eider. The white under-wings are uncharacteristic of female common eiders.

    For comparison, check this out:

  2. It's great when we can puzzle out an ID of a new bird without help. But if the youngster was just playing at diving, I guess we should worry about it. He/she also has to do it without or not make it. Nature does not have much use for the inept. Is that what sets us apart, perhaps?


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