Horrible Hybrids – 10,000 Birds

As a normal rule, birders don’t like hybrids. For a begin, they could battle to establish them, whereas secondly they will’t even tick them. On BirdTrack, the British equal of e-Hen, the checklist of birds supplied does enable for Tufted Duck x Ferruginous Duck to be recorded, however not Tufted Duck x Pochard. Nonetheless, that’s precisely what I guessed the duck swimming in entrance of me needed to be. It was consorting with massive flock of primarily drake Pochards, and as its behaviour was equivalent to its companions, as was its dimension and form, it didn’t instantly stand out. Nonetheless, there had been stories of a Scaup combined in with the flock, which at first look I assumed this chook is perhaps. As quickly as I checked out it extra carefully it was fairly clear that it wasn’t a scaup of any species, regardless of its resemblance to a North American Lesser Scaup. The latter, by the best way, is a uncommon however common vagrant to the British Isles, first recorded right here in 1987, however seen yearly lately.

Appears like a scaup of some kind, nevertheless it’s not fairly proper

My chook definitely had the peaked crown attribute of a Lesser Scaup; the feathers on its head appeared black at a distance, whereas nearer inspection revealed a purple sheen. Nonetheless, as you may see clearly from my {photograph}, the again feathers have been finely vemiculated, not like the quite coarser vermiculation on the American chook. Lesser Scaup has solely a slight black tip to the beak, whereas this chook had a transparent black band. My hunch was Tufted Duck x Pochard.

The iris color just isn’t proper for a Lesser or Better Scaup, and neither is the band on the tip of the beak

Not many subject guides are useful in the case of hybrids, however the Collins Hen Information will get full marks because of a double-page unfold of Pochard hybrids, fantastically illustrated by Killian Mullarney. Lars Svensson’s accompanying textual content explains “a quite puzzling reality is that, amongst wildfowl, hybrids seem to happen extra generally amongst geese and members of the ‘pochards’, genus Aythya, than amongst dabbling geese. The rationale for this isn’t clear.” He goes on to recommend that when finding out a hybrid duck, “all the time play shut consideration to: sample, dimension and form of invoice; iris color; form of head seen in profile; and presence or not of superb vermiculation on gray or grey-brown components.”

Notice the superb vemiculations on the again, a attribute of drake Tufted Duck x duck Pochard

Seven completely different hybrids are proven within the Information, together with Tufted Duck drake x Pochard duck. The outline is uncannily correct for the duck in my {photograph}. I hadn’t thought of the potential parentage greater than the 2 possible species concerned, however intriguingly a Pochard drake x Tufted duck appears fairly completely different. Svensson notes that Tufted drake x Pochard duck is “now a well known hybrid”. Additional analysis revealed the Hen Hybrids weblog ( has a number of revealing images of this (and lots of different) hybrids. 

I photographed the chook proven right here on the Wildfowl & Wetlands Belief reserve at Welney on the Ouse Washes (Cambridgeshire, UK) in November. Intriguingly, I had additionally photographed an identical hybrid chook right here in February this yr (see image under). Was it the identical particular person? My guess is that it most likely was. The place it had spent the summer time is anybody’s guess, however the majority of the Pochard that winter within the UK come from Jap Europe and Russia, with birds ringed in Latvia being notably quite a few. 

May this chook, photographed in February 2023, be the identical particular person because the one above photographed in November?

Hybridisation could also be uncommon amongst wild wildfowl, however is widespread in captivity the place birds have significantly much less alternative of potential companions. I’ve seen some weird-looking hybrids in duck collections. A few years in the past a buddy of mine stored a small however different assortment of geese and geese. One yr he was very excited when his feminine Hawaiian Goose hatched 4 wholesome goslings, the primary time he had managed to breed this species. Nonetheless, as they feathered up it was clear that one thing was flawed. Sadly, they weren’t pure Hawaiians, however hybrids with a Barnacle Goose. Each geese are fairly carefully associated as they’re members of the genus Branta, which additionally consists of the Redbreasted Goose, Brent Goose, Cackling Goose and Canada Goose.

No prizes for guessing it is a Canada Goose x Greylag

Not that geese must be members of the identical genus to hybridise. I often see wild hybrids of Canada Goose x Greylag Goose (a Branta with an Anser). Why the 2 species ought to mate is a thriller, however the ensuing offspring is easy to establish as my {photograph} exhibits. I believe that they could be fertile, too, however that’s one thing I’m not sure about. They’re not handsome birds, so they could battle to draw a accomplice. Charles Darwin was most involved when he found that hybrids between Greylag and Swan Geese have been fully fertile, as his early definition of a species was that one species didn’t interbreed with one other. 

My most memorable encounter with a non-wildfowl hybrid was some years in the past in Finland, after I was taken to a Blackgrouse lek the place two cock Racklehahns have been current. The Racklehahn is a well known hybrid between a male Blackgrouse and feminine Capercaillie. These two Racklehahns have been fairly completely different. One was a good-looking chook that confirmed options of each mother and father, whereas the opposite was a distinctly ugly-looking blighter. Alas, I wasn’t in a position to spend enough time watching them to see if they’d any success with the assembled Blackgrouse hens. This was earlier than the times of digital images, too, so I didn’t take any images. Nonetheless, if you wish to know what a Racklehahn appears like, check out The Hen Hybrids Weblog which has some nice images. 

A falconer’s Peregrine hybrid, however what’s was its full parentage?

Falconers found a number of many years in the past that hybrid falcons have further vigour, so with the assistance of synthetic insemination some unlikely hybrids have been produced. Peregrine crosses are hottest, typically with Gyr or Saker Falcons, whereas I’ve even seen birds that have been an unlikely cross between a Peregrine and a Merlin. When these hybrid falcons escape into the wild, as they generally do, they invariably create an actual identification problem. A Saker x Peregrine can look very very like a dark-phase Gyr, whereas Saker x Gyr typically resemble the latter. Happily, falcons don’t (as far we all know) hybridise within the wild, whereas so far as I’m conscious no person has studied the influence of escaped hybrids on wild populations.

Autor David T


Journalist specialized in online marketing as Social Media Manager. I help professionals and companies to become more Internet and online reputation, which allows to give life to the Social Media Strategies defined for the Company, and thus immortalize brands, products and services. I have participated as an exhibitor in various forums nationally and internationally, I am the author of several articles in digital magazines and Blogs.

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