The Status and Occurrence of Falcated Duck (Anas falcata) in British Columbia
by Rick Toochin and Jamie Fenneman
Read the full article with photos here.
Introduction and Distribution
The Falcated Duck (Anas falcata) breeds solely in boreal regions of eastern Asia, including eastern Russia, northern Mongolia, northeast China, and Japan (Brazil 2009). It winters in eastern and southeastern Asia, especially southern and eastern China (Brazil 2009). Smaller numbers winter in Japan and on the Korean Peninsula, with even smaller numbers ranging west through northern portions of Southeast Asia to Bangladesh, eastern India, and Nepal (Brazil 2009, BirdLife International 2014). It is strictly a vagrant west to Europe and the Middle East (although the status of vagrants in this region is complicated by the presence of potential escapees) (Lewington et al. 1992, Mullarney and Zetterstrom 2009). The Falcated Duck is a casual migrant, summer visitor, and wintering bird on the outer Aleutians of Alaska, occasionally occurring elsewhere in the Bering Sea region (West 2008). It is accidental south along the Pacific coast of North America where, in addition to the two British Columbia records (Toochin et al. 2013a, see Table 1), there are three accepted records for Washington (Wahl et al. 2005, WBRC 2012), four accepted records for Oregon (OFO 2012), and two accepted records for California (Hamilton et al. 2007). Most records south of British Columbia have occurred between January and April, which is consistent with the pattern of occurrence in the province, although exceptional individuals have occurred in Washington in July (Wahl et al. 2005, WBRC 2012) and Oregon in November (OFO 2012).
The global population of Falcated Duck is estimated at c. 89,000 individuals, which is considerably higher than previous estimates of only c. 35,000 individuals (BirdLife International 2014). Despite the evidence suggesting a higher-than expected population size, the species is classified as “Near Threatened” by the IUCN owing to moderate declines on the Chinese portion of its breeding range. The species remains relatively common throughout much of its range, however, with several breeding and wintering populations (e.g., Japan) showing little or no decline in abundance (BirdLife International 2014).
Occurrence and Documentation
The Falcated Duck is casual in southern British Columbia, where it has occurred in both coastal and interior regions of the province. The first record of the species was a single adult male that was observed by A. Brooks at Swan Lake, Vernon in April 1932 (Brooks 1932). The individual was observed for an extended period and was well described, leaving little doubt as to its identity. Although Brooks (1932) considered the record to be of a naturally-occurring vagrant (citing the bird’s wary behaviour as evidence of its natural origins), subsequent authors, including Brooks himself, have all considered the individual to be a likely escapee from captivity (Brooks 1942, Munro and Cowan 1947, Roberson 1980, Godfrey 1986, Cannings et al. 1987, Campbell et al. 1990). This notion is based on the prevalence of the species in California’s wild bird trade in the early part of the 20th century and the presumption that any escapee in California would migrate north with spring migratory waterfowl. Despite this, the Falcated Duck now has a well-established pattern of occurrence along the Pacific coast of North America, and it is felt that there is no particular component of this sighting other than the conjectural hypotheses of the original observer that would suggest that it was of anything other than natural origin. The species was not observed again in the province until April 1994, when a single adult male was observed on the tidal flats of Grice Bay near Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island (Paterson 1994). This individual proceeded to return to the site for the following two winters, where it remained for 68 and 58 days, respectively (Toochin et al. 2013a, see Table 1). In both 1995 and 1996, this bird arrived at Grice Bay in mid to late January, and departed in late March (Toochin et al. 2013a, see Table 1). The origins of this bird were more widely considered to be natural, and it was included in Campbell et al. (2001) as the first legitimate record of Falcated Duck in British Columbia. Since this species could occur again in the future and observers should get photographs and confirmation to properly document all future records.