Sometimes I Just Photograph For The Colors

This post is all about color. Lots and lots of color. I am talking about the northern drake shovelor, one of natures more colorful birds. I was able to photograph these handsome fellas a couple weeks ago during a very cold stretch of weather we had here. As you can see the winter plumage of the northern drake shovelor is quite different than the drab off colored eclipse plumage they temporarily molt into during late summer. It is bright and very vibrant with colors. Lots and lots of colors. The eclipse phase, a late summer change in outfits per say, is quite a different story, however.

northern drake shovelor
The colors on a drake northern shovelor are outstanding.

I am not sure of the biological reasoning behind them molting into a temporary eclipse plumage like this but most ducks I am aware of go through some kind of summer molt. This drab attire is usually gone by fall migration but from what I am told northern shovelors can sometimes hang on to their eclipse plumage in times of stress due to extreme temperatures and low food supplies. The second image was taken in late January, well after the eclipse molt had taken place but I had seen numerous birds in at least a partial eclipse plumage so I am wondering if this had been a very hard year for them as it seems many had not molted out into their traditional winter feathers.

northern drake shovelor in eclipse plumage
The eclipse plumage of a northern drake shovelor is more drab and plain as compared to its winter plumage.

Regardless of what time of year it is, it is always great to be able to get out and photograph ducks in their world. It is even more exciting to catch them in their full winter attire which is usually what we humans would refer to our “best dress” attire. Hopefully I can get a few more opportunities to photograph these handsome birds as I am a sucker for a sharp dressed duck.

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