Dan Russo of Westerville sent along some photos of an interesting duck today - a White-cheeked Pintail, Anas bahamensis. The beautiful fowl appeared recently at a suburban pond, and immediately began consorting with the local semi-domestic Mallards and other tame fare.
Lest you become crazed with listing lust and are lunging for the binocs and car keys, trust me - this is not a wild bird. We don't know its origins, but I'd wager three Jabirus and a Torrent Duck that this White-cheeked Pintail didn't fly to Central Ohio from the tropics.
Photo: Dan Russo
The pintail happily waddles about the lawn with some Mallards, seeking handouts. It's the one in the back, with the white cheeks. White-cheeked Pintail is indigenous to the Caribbean and parts of South America, with a population also found on the Galapagos Islands. Their occurrence as a wild vagrant in the United States is very questionable, and probably only the south Florida records are in the running as potential bonafide vagrants. But even most if not all of those records are questionable.
Photo: Dan Russo
Lots -and I mean LOTS - of individuals and organizations keep waterfowl. And what fancier of feathered things with webbed feet wouldn't want a duck such as this gorgeous pintail? Well, a lot of folks want such animals, and have them. I have seen some amazing species and collections of waterfowl on people's ponds over the years, including rare Ohio vagrants such as Barrow's Goldeneye, Tufted Duck, and Eurasian Wigeon. One time, in rural eastern Ohio, I was shocked to glance over at a farm as I passed by and see a bunch of Hawaiian Geese (formerly Nene)!
Another time, Bernie Master and I were looking over wild fowl at a pond at Killdeer Plains when a gentleman who didn't appear to be a birder drove up and asked what we were seeing. It turned out he knew every duck out there, and well - he had kept nearly all of them in captivity at one time or another! This guy was a wealth of knowledge about the local waterfowl collector trade, and we picked his brain for some time about different species in captivity, their frequency, cost, etc. After that encounter, I wondered all the more about the legitimacy of many of the so-called wild vagrant ducks in Ohio and elsewhere. Some of these wayward fowl are certainly wild - waterfowl are very strong flyers after all - but others are just as certainly escapees and it can sometimes be impossible to know the origin.
Nearly every species of duck, goose, and swan you could name is available for sale and being kept in captivity. The last time I visited the Cincinnati Zoo, they had Harlequin Duck, Smew, and Barrow's Goldeneye swimming about on an outdoors lake. I have heard birders say that these are tough species to keep in captivity, but I'm not so sure that's true.
Here's some sample prices of a few species (by the pair) that I saw in a quick web search, and all are major Ohio rarities:
Cinnamon Teal - $130.00
Tufted Duck - $195.00
Black-bellied Whistling Duck - $135.00
Barnacle Goose (no Ohio records but we've had free-flyers show up and origin of this species is oft-debated on the east coast) - $325.00
And, for kicks, White-cheeked Pintail - a steal at $90.00 a pair.
Even Garganey - remember the recent lingering bird in southwest Ohio - is readily available should you wish to purchase some.
Just remember to keep their wings clipped, lest they fly away like this pintail did.
Thanks to Dan for sharing his photos of this beautiful duck.