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This Aythya was photographed at Benbrook Lake, near Fort Worth, Texas on November 19, 1999 by Martin Reid. In the field a small "mane" of slightly longer feathers was visible at the back of the head, with the uppermost being a small whispy tuft - visible in photos TXA, TXB, TXD, and to varying degrees in other images. The other major points noted were that the rear flanks had some scattered pale fringes (i.e. there were not plain brown, but they were not vermiculated), the blackish back was uniform without any sign of vermiculated feathers, and that the dark tip to the bill was not as extensive as on a typical Tufted Duck, but it did extend laterally to the full width of the bill - click here to scroll down to a transcript of my original notes, at the bottom of this page. Click here to see comments made back in November 1999, based on fewer, darker scans of the photos. I checked my original photos of this bird and re-scanned some images (to better match the original prints, and now using a 17" monitor) and added some new images. Click here to view a page addressing the features of this bird, using comparative images I've collected via the Internet or from published sources:

Transcript of original field notes: " 11/19/1999 C. 7.45am. Lake Benbrook. Tufted Duck? Aythya found close-in, on its own, but as I pulled up, it started to slowly swim away towards the distant large group of mixed Aythya & dabblers.
Back & scaps a uniform blackish brown, with no hint of any vermiculations or other paler edges - merged seamlessly into blackish brown rump & tail & undertail - but a small whitish patch visible in some views on the center of the utc {undertail coverts}. Head the same blackish brown with glaring bright yellow eye when light hit it (but looked duller in shadow) with an irregular whitish patch @ base of bill that broke up over the bill base/top & did not go below the gape. There was clearly a vestigial tuft, seeming to consist of a mane of larger feathers that were rather thin & whispy, & most of the time were held flat (making the head look less rounded) but occasionally would fluff out to show their individual structure and reveal a more rounded rear of the head. Most of the time the head appeared squarish - not classic TUDU, but not LESC or GRSC-like either. The underparts were milky coffee brown, with a few scattered paler fringes (a couple of these at the rear were quite thick) - again no sign of vermiculations. Breast was a darker, warmer mid-brown, but oddly the lower neck/upper breast was a paler brown with a golden tone (?) Eventually it entered the duck flock way out & I lost it: at no time did I get a look at the wings. Bill: on the large side for TUDU at some angles, with less than average black on the tip (but {black} tip did extend across full width of bill) with a pale bluish band behind this that also extended slightly along the sides back towards the base; rest of bill a reflective mid-gray.
My concerns are that the bill may be a bit big, and the tuft rather small - does this indicate a hybrid??? {Signature} 11/19/99 @ 8.30am)"

Conclusion: Given the above description (and the detail visible in the photos), the only realistic candidates seem to be: Ring-necked Duck, Tufted Duck, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, or a hybrid involving two of the above. The white at the base of the bill (on a yellow-eyed bird) rules out any pure RNDU, as does the small tuft at the rear of the head (RNDU can often have a bump a bit higher-up than this, but not an actual tuft). Both Scaups are ruled out by the combination of small tuft, unmarked blackish back (although a few GRSC imms can approach this color/pattern for a brief period in winter), and bright yellow eye (imm. Scaups of both taxa retain a darkish eye well into the early Spring, while imm. male TUDU acquire a bright yellow eye early in the winter). This leaves Tufted Duck, or a hybrid. This was the point I arrived at very soon after the sighting, and I've refrained from reaching a conclusion unless/until I felt I had enough evidence to reasonably claim that this bird is within the normal variation of TUDU. Frankly it is impossible to rule out a hybrid origin for almost any individual Aythya duck, especially if you start to postulate about back-crosses. Given that this individual clearly has a tuft, it would be hard to argue that there are no TUDU genes in this bird. In this situation, I feel if we can establish that the individual has no significant anomalies, and is within the normal variation for TUDU, we can reasonably call it a TUDU. I feel that the large database of TUDU images I have amassed does establish that there are no significant abnormalities for TUDU on this individual, and that - while it does not have the "classic" look of a TUDU - every feature falls within the normal range for TUDU - but as a potential First State Record, I stop short of claiming it as one at this time.