398 RINGED NECK DUCK
|The Ring-necked Duck is abundant on all our western waters during
autumn and winter. It is also met with along our Atlantic coasts; but
there, although I have seen many individuals on the Chesapeake and other
large arms of the sea, it is by no means so plentiful as in the
interior. Its flesh is excellent, equalling in my opinion that of any
other Duck; and when it has been feeding along the margins of rivers,
creeks, or ponds for a few weeks, it becomes very fat, tender, and
juicy, and has none of the fishy flavour of those species which are in
the habit of diving deep for their food. In shape, the Tufted Duck, or
Ring-bill, as it is called in Kentucky, resembles the Scaup or Flocking
Fowl, but is plumper and more rounded.
This bird arrives in Kentucky and the neighbouring States, as far down the Mississippi as New Orleans, from the 20th of September to the middle of October, at which latter period it may be found in the whole extent of the Union, from Massachusetts to Louisiana, being more numerous in some distincts than in others, according to the suitableness of the place. They commonly move while on wing in flocks of from fifteen to twenty individuals, keeping rather scattered, and thus rarely affording what is called a good shot. They fly with rapidity, keeping at a considerable height, and the motion of their wings produces a constant whistling as they pass over head. Before alighting, they wheel and perform various evolutions, although they do not occupy so much time with them as Teals are wont to do.
They swim rather lightly and with ease, and, unlike the Scaups, experience no difficulty in rising on wing, whether from the land or from the water, but generally spring up at once, especially if alarmed. They have an almost constant practice of raising the head in a curved manner, partially erecting the occipital feathers, and emitting a note resembling the sound produced by a person blowing through a tube. At the approach of spring the males are observed repeating this action every now and then, while near the females, none of which seem to pay the least attention to their civilities.
Whilst in ponds, they feed by diving and dabbling with their bills in the mud amongst the roots of grasses, of which they eat the seeds also, as well as snails and all kinds of aquatic insects. When on rivers, their usual food consists of small fish and crays, the latter of which they procure at the bottom. A male which I shot near Louisville, in the beginning of May, exhibited a protuberance of the neck so very remarkable as to induce me to cut the skin, when I found a frog, the body of which was nearly two inches long, and which had almost choked the bird, as it allowed me to go up within a dozen or fifteen paces before I took aim. This species remains with us in the Western Country later than most others of its tribe, and not unfrequently as late as the Blue-winged Teal.
We are indebted for the discovery of this species to my friend the Prince of MUSIGNANO, who first pointed out the difference between it arid the Tufted Duck of Europe. The distinctions that exist in the two species he ascertained about the time of my first acquaintance with him at Philadelphia in 1824, when he was much pleased on seeing my drawing of a male and a female, which I had made at Louisville, in Kentucky, previous to WILSON'S visit to me there. WILSON supposed it identical with the European species.
The summer haunts and habits of this Duck have not been ascertained; for although Dr. RICHARDSON mentions that he found it not rare in the Fur Countries, he says nothing of its eggs or nest. While with us it has no long crest, but I am inclined to think that at the commencement of the breeding season that appendage may be developed.
FULIGULA RUFITORQUES, Bonap. Syn., p. 393.
RING-NECKED DUCK, Anas (Fuligula) rufitorques, Swains. and Rich. F. Bor. Amer., vol. ii. p. 453.
RING-NECKED DUCK, Fuligula rufitorques, Nutt. Man., vol. ii. p. 439.
RING-NECKED DUCK, Fuligula rufitorques, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. iii.p. 259.
Male, 18, 28. Female, 16.
Abundant on the Ohio during autumn, winter, and early spring; rather rare along the coasts of the Middle Atlantic Districts. Breeds far north.
Bill about the same length as the head, rather deeper than broad at the base, depressed and enlarged towards the end, the frontal angles acute. Upper mandible with the dorsal line at first sloping, then concave, along the unguis decurved, the ridge broad and flat at the base, then broadly convex, the sides nearly flat and perpendicular at the base, convex and sloping towards the end, the edges soft, with about forty-five internal lamellae, unguis obovate, curved. Nostrils sub-basal, lateral, rather small, oval, pervious. Lower mandible flat, with the angle very long and rather narrow, the dorsal line very short, slightly convex, the edges with about sixty-five lamellae and smaller intermediate ones above.
Head of moderate size, neck rather long and slender, body full and depressed, wings rather small. Feet very short, strong, placed rather far behind; tarsus very short, compressed, at its lower part anteriorly with two series of scutella, the rest covered with reticulated angular scales. Toes scutellate above, first very small, free, with a broad membrane beneath, fourth longest, third scarcely shorter; claws small, curved, compressed, obtuse, the hind one smaller, more curved and acute, that of the third toe with an inner sharp edge.
Plumage dense, soft, blended, rather glossy. Feathers of the middle of the head, and upper part of hind neck, very narrow and a little elongated; of the rest of the head and upper part of the neck very short, of the back and lower parts in general broad and rounded. Wings of moderate length, narrow, acute; primaries curved, strong, tapering, first longest, second very little shorter; secondaries broad, rounded, short, the inner long and tapering. Tail very short, rather broad, much rounded, of sixteen rounded feathers.
Bill black, with a basal band, the edges of both mandibles, and a band across the upper towards the end, pale blue. Iris yellow. Legs greyish-blue, the webs brownish-black. The head, and upper part of the neck, greenish-black, with purple reflections. A brownish-red collar, broader before, on the middle of the neck. Its lower part all round, as well as the back, scapulars, smaller wing-coverts, and posterior part of abdomen, brownish-black. Inner secondaries of the same colour, outer bluish-grey on the outer web, light brown on the inner, as are the primaries, of which the outer webs and tips are dark brown. Tail brownish-grey. Chin white, breast greyish-white, sides and fore part of abdomen greyish-white, minutely undulated with greyish-brown.
Length to end of tail 18 inches, to end of wings 16; extent of wings 28; wing from flexure 7 3/4; tail 2 1/2; bill along the back 2 1/12, along the edge of lower mandible 1 11/12; tarsus 1 4/12; middle toe 2 2/12, its claw 4/12.
The female has the neck umber-brown, the upper part of the head darker, the back blackish-brown, the speculum bluish-grey, as in the male, the breast brownish-white, the loral spaces and chin pale brown, the abdomen umber-brown.
Length 16 inches.
The Tufted Duck of Europe, Fuligula cristata, is very intimately allied to this species. The bill of the latter is longer, narrower, and differently coloured, the unguis broader at the end, as is the flat triangular space at the base of the upper mandible. The bill of the Scaup Duck is still broader towards the end, with a much narrower unguis, and the flattened part of the upper mandible still narrower than in the Tufted Duck; the colour of the speculum is also different, being bluish-grey in the Ring-necked Duck, and white in the two allied species. The females of the Ring-necked and Scaup Ducks, which are nearly similar in colour, differ in the speculum, and in the peculiar form of the bill.