Ugly Duck or Common Eider?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!