No Tufted Duck?
Can you spot the Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula? Eyak Lake, Cordova, 20 October 2005.
Last year I wrote a post on species which have been recorded in Alaska, but are long overdue to reappear. Click here if you’re interested in reading that. Lately I’ve been thinking specifically about the Kenai Peninsula and the birds that have occurred here. Relative to the rest of the state, the Kenai is fairly accessible and is home to a number of good birders. It’s no surprise that the Kenai Peninsula’s bird list contains some remarkable finds: White-winged Tern, Turkey Vulture, Northern Mockingbird, Jack Snipe, Palm Warbler and Rustic Bunting, to name a few.
I’ve also been thinking about the birds that haven’t occurred here and one remarkable omission stands out: Tufted Duck. While I’ve seen mention of Tufted Duck on a couple of checklists for the Kenai, I haven’t been able to find any documentation or even mention of it in North American Birds, Field Notes, American Birds, or anywhere else for that matter. Despite the fact that there are numerous winter records from Cordova and Kodiak and at least two spring records from Anchorage, no birder that I’ve spoken with has ever commented on seeing one on the Kenai Peninsula. The lack of records for the Kenai probably is due in large part to the general lack of open fresh water during the winter months, when the species is most likely to occur. Unlike the Kenai’s wintering scaup, nearly all of the winter Alaska records of Tufted Duck have occurred on fresh water. The Kenai River, however, does remain open near Cooper Landing and I think this would be the perfect place to find one. While most records for Kodiak and Cordova are of wintering birds, the dates of these records span from October to May (and the two Anchorage records are from May), so a spring or fall migrant on Beluga Lake in Homer also seems like a good bet.
Good luck out there and call me if you find a Tufted Duck!