Kip and Laura Stransky were amazed when they counted 50+ Wood Ducks raiding their birdseed in their Lake Montezuma back yard, which borders Beaver Creek. I’ve seen Wood Ducks in the Verde Valley before, mostly in creeks and rivers. Wood Ducks are so gorgeous and uncommon that just last week I talked to a couple birders that drove up from the Phoenix area to see some Wood Ducks reported at Bubbling Ponds. But the most I’d previously seen in one place in Arizona was in Aspen Pond, Camp Verde, where 10-15 wood ducks live year round. Mixed in with the wood ducks in the Stransky’s yard were 22 Mallards and a single Mexican Duck. (Top duck in above photo)
Twice a day like clockwork, they come as a group, running frenzied toward the seed the Stranskys put out.
“The Mexican Duck was formerly considered a species (Anas diazi), and is currently lumped with Mallard (as subspecies Anas platyrhynchos diazi), but recent DNA studies suggest that the Mottled Duck (not Mallard) is its closest relative (McCracken et al. 2001)” (Sibley 2011). Currently though, it is listed as a separate species by Cornell’s eBird app (eBird.org 2019).
The fact is that Mexican Ducks readily cross-breed with Mallards. The further north you go in the Mexican Duck’s range, the more likely you will encounter a hybrid between the two (Sibley 2011). Thus, finding a Mexican Duck this far north is something rare indeed. On the bird above, notice the green on the head and the white in the tail.
McCracken, K. G. , W. P. Johnson, & F. H. Sheldon. 2001. Molecular population genetics, phylogeography, and conservation biology of the mottled duck (Anas fulvigula). Conservation Genetics 2: 87-102
Sibley David. 2011. Intergradation between Mexican Duck and Mallard in Arizona. https://www.sibleyguides.com/2011/05/intergradation-between-mexican-duck-and-mallard-in-arizona/
eBird.org 2019 Mexican Duck https://ebird.org/species/mexduc
Cover photo by Chip Engelmann