The picture below was taken at Cowan Lake State Park, Ohio, on 2 Jan 09.  The bird is clearly a male Northern Shoveler, but the plumage shows some aspects I have never seen in shovelers.  Note the distinctive vermiculations just above the large chestnut flank patch.  I believe these to be the greater coverts, but I am at a loss to place a plumage of this sort in the life cycle of the Northern Shoveler.

The only reference I can find that has a similar plumage is in Waterfowl by Madge and Burn (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1988).  There is a plate that might be a crude representation of this state and a mention in the text of a “subeclipse” plumage.  Pyle’s new Volume 2 to his monumental Identification Guide to North American Birds does not mention eclipse plumages, much less subeclipse plumages.  As I understand it, the eclipse plumage is actually the alternate plumage in ducks.  In any case, I cannot find a reference in Pyle to secondary covs with vermiculations.

I personally have never had the opportunity to handle waterfowl and would appreciate the input of my elders and betters.  How would you age this bird?

Weird shoveler photographed at Cowan Lake State Park, Ohio, 2 Jan 09.  How would you age this bird?

Weird shoveler photographed at Cowan Lake State Park, Ohio, 2 Jan 09. How would you age this bird?

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