Friday, April 29, 2016

An eponymous Ring-necked Duck

Like the orange crown on the Orange-crowned Warbler, or the sharp shins on the Sharp-shinned Hawk, the neck ring on the Ring-necked Duck is usually not obvious to birders in the field.

That's what happens when the person that officially names the bird is the often curator of a distant museum where the dead birds were shipped for cataloging, and not the person who observed the bird in life. And, because of the rules of priority*, we cannot go back and rename the bird to something that makes sense.

* Well, actually, this only applies to the scientific name. Amateur zoologist, Edward Donovan found this duck in a local meat market in London (where this North American bird is accidental). He described the bird to science in 1809 in the journal British Birds. He named it Aythya collaris, which literally means "collared seabird (duck)" or "neck-banded duck." So, Ring-necked Duck is an appropriate English match for the scientific name.

This photo shows how the drake often looks in the winter...

Ring-necked Duck
Ring-necked Duck. Lake Dixon, Escondido, California. April 15, 2016. Greg Gillson.
The copper neck ring between the purplish head and the black breast is seen in this recent photo where the neck is stretched in an alert posture...

Ring-necked Duck
Ring-necked Duck showing copper neck ring. Kit Carson Park, Escondido, California. April 10, 2016. Greg Gillson.