And why have I never heard of it before?
I was looking at pictures of Wood Ducks at The Cornell Labs All About Birds site.
I noticed a picture of an “Eclipse male” Wood Duck. I had just seen that bird at Neary Lagoon! I had assumed it was a juvenile Wood Duck. (In recent visits, Katherine and I had seen several baby ducks there.)
I Googled “eclipse plumage” to find out more. I learned that many waterfowl undergo a “simultaneous molt” after breeding. They lose all their primary feathers at the same time–as apposed to “sequential molt” where flight feathers are lost one at a time. Ducks undergoing simultaneous molt are unable to fly for up to forty days. The feathers that come in – eclipse – allow them to camouflage themselves in the wetlands where they live.
I had also seen an eclipsed Mallard at Neary on that visit but I hadn’t recognized it as such. I again thought it was a juvenile.
I could tell from the bit of green on this Mallard’s head that it was a male. I learned, however, that a fully eclipsed male Mallard looks like the female. From BirdNation, I learned to tell the difference by looking at the bill: the male has a yellow bill while the female has an orange bill with black markings. I needed to go through my pictures from that day to see if I’d misidentified an eclipsed male.
This was one I’d misidentified.
Sorry, dude. My bad.
The next photo shows three Wood Ducks in various stages of the transition to eclipse plumage.
Another picture of a Wood Duck.
It was exciting to learn about eclipse plumage but a little disheartening to think it was happening last year and I never noticed! 😂