Dec 03 2013

Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Green Streak

Aw, yeah, it’s the return of the UFDs! I’ve been extremely lax. Also, the birds were buggers this summer. So I’m reaching into the past for a few likely candidates.

I’ll start us easy, with some serene little water birds. I quite like these. They’re tiny, and they’ve got that pretty green streak in their wings.

UFD I: a mottled brown duck-like swimmer with a green streak in its wing.


I see these round here a lot. I suspect I know what they are, and they’ve got to be dead easy, but they’re cute, so why not?

UFD II: Same sort of bird, with what looks like a female of the same species.


These little delights were at a pond on North Creek last winter, along with about ten billion other water birds. They don’t seem to mind ice a bit.

Right. There’s a little something for ye. Let me know what we’ve got!



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  1. 1

    i believe she is a green winged teal

  2. 2

    Such a bright green!
    Is it pigment or optical?

    (And I believe suzannetwoton is correct.)

    1. 2.1

      While I agree that this is most likely a hen Green-winged Teal, there’s a small, but nonzero, possibility that she might be a hen Common Teal, especially up there in the PNW, but I don’t know how to tell them apart. Either way, these are excellent photographs! These little ducks are very shy, as well as very small, and that combination makes them very difficult to photograph.

      rq, the color’s structural. No green pigment has ever been identified in any bird, and the iridescent color is the result of the peculiar arrangement of tiny disks of melanin and their interaction with their transparent covering. Different arrangements give different colors. It’s just like the iridescent gorgets of hummingbirds.

      1. rq

        That’s what I thought (re: colour). But you never know. :)
        I hear blue is the same – no actual pigment, purely structural.

  3. 3

    I agree, green winged teal female. There’s a male visible in a couple of the “came back with birds” pictures of the green heron, as well.


  4. 4

    Forgot to add, the green feathers are called a speculum. Brightly colored speculum feathers are common in ducks, mallards have blue.

    Teals are about my wife’s favorite ducks, because her great-great-grandmother’s maiden name was Teal!

  5. 5

    I have it on good authority that they are a breed of racing pigeon as bred in one of the South American nations.

  6. 6

    re #2.1 petemoulton

    No green pigment has ever been identified in any bird

    Really? I’ve seen green parrots and green parakeets fairly close-up and I never noticed the shimmery quality you see in hummers and blue-jays, so I always thought it was a pigment color.

  7. 7

    I’m afraid you aren’t completely correct, petemoulton. I found this:

    The third group of pigments are called porphyrins and these are essentially modified amino acids. Porphyrins can produce red, brown, pink and green colors. This pigment group is the rarest of the three pigment groups and is found in only a handful of bird families. The best-known example of porphyrins is the red pigment (often called turacin) that is found in many turaco species and turacoverdin, the green pigment found in many of the same turaco species.

    1. 7.1

      My bad, moarscienceplz. Yes, I forgot the turacos. I’ll plead that turacos don’t occur naturally anywhere near North America, and I don’t think of them often, but that’s a feeble excuse.

    2. 7.2

      And here I was hoping for birds with chlorophyll… Ah well, I continue my experiments!!

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