Saturday, 10 January 2009

Photo of the Day #25: White-winged Wood Duck

Keep your entries coming in for Cranial Challenge, please; nobody who has entered has yet got them all right!! I will close the competition at the end of the month, until then, give us your best guess at the 26 vertebrate skulls, or those you know! You don't have to be specific; the full answers will be revealed in due course.

In the mean time, here's a photo of a White-winged Wood Duck I took at the London Wetland Centre on the penultimate day of 2008. It was bloody cold, but was otherwise a pleasant day, with teals and snipe giving me a nice show; overall a ruddy good way to end a year full of birdwatching, reptile-searching and fossil foraging!

White-winged wood duck
Cairina scutulata (Müller, 1842)
Anatidae; Anseriformes; Aves; Chordata
London Wetland Centre
December 2008

The white-winged wood duck is mostly believed to be a close relative of the ubiquitous Muscovy duck (the only commonly domesticated duck species other than the mallard), hence the placement in the genus Cairina, but this may be wrong, as molecular evidence has suggested. It looks like a Muscovy duck, so I'll leave it where it is for the time being; I distrust DNA highly. It's an endangered species from south-east Asia, held in an enclosure known as "Tropical Wetlands" in the London Wetland Centre; the only thing that looks vaguely tropical about that part is a plastic Rafflesia that pigeons seem to like sitting (and crapping) on. There were white-winged wood ducks there when I first started visiting the Centre in 2005, then they vanished, being replaced by Comb ducks Sarkidiornis melanotos (indeed found in tropical Asia, but the Centre holds the South American subspecies, S. m. sylvicola). Last month I found the white-winged wood ducks back, and in greater numbers.

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