When I think of the Northern Pintail, I envision the handsome brown-headed male with flowing feathers and fall-colored wing bars.
That was until I caught a glimpse of this one on Wednesday. It is a Northern Pintail, the head, neck and beak tell me so. But what is up with this plumage? I stared at it for quite a while trying to decide if this was a male or female. Thinking this was quite unusual and reaching no conclusion about what I was seeing, I headed back to my car.
The mature male took the first strike. Why? I do know that pintails pick their mates at this time of the year and are among the first to lay their eggs in the spring. Was this associated with mating?
Then, the foray continued. Back and forth they went, with the neck being the most common attack zone. Lasting for about a minute, it was the one who started this fight who walked away first.
What provoked this? I have so many questions when I am in the field, and while the Internet has many answers, it rarely provides all the information I am seeking. I couldn't find a single picture of a bird looking like the "wet" one. I am left to wonder if this is a male (immature or eclipse) or if it is an aggressive female.
Then, sitting up on the bank yesterday was this bird. Although its colors don't look the same, that is probably a result of the lighting in the location. The facial markings are the same as the female, though. This bird looked bigger than the birds in the water, but I explained that away with the possibility that this bird is puffed up to stay warm. Yet, look at the wing bar on this bird. It is quite pominent. I can only guess that its showing so much in this picture is partly due to the bird being fluffed up. I think it is safe to say, this is a female Green-winged Teal. I have said it before, and I will say it again. Field trips typically result in the best learning.