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Tracking Quizzes

Quiz #17 - Answer


The answer is MALLARD DUCK.

The main clue to start with here is the webbed feet, with one toe pointing backward and 3 toes pointing forward, the outer of these toes being curved. The webbing shows much more prominently than a mammal such as a beaver or otter, and the 3 forward toes identifies that this animal is a type of bird.

So that narrows it down to a webbed-foot bird such as duck, cormorant, goose, swan, pelican, gull, or tern. Swans & pelicans have much larger feet than these; terns have smaller feet. Cormorants & pelicans have asymmetrical tracks that look very different from these.

So that narrows it down to duck, goose, or gull. The measurements of the tracks is consistent with mallard duck. So are the toes - for ducks, the backward-pointing toe, known as "Toe 1", is very stubby (you can see it in Photo Q4, but basically not at all in Photo Q5).

Goose would be an excellent guess. Their tracks are shaped identically to ducks, but are a little larger than the tracks in these photos, with the possible exception of Brandt geese that are on the smallest end of the range. It would take access to a field guide to identify that these tracks were smaller than Canada Goose. Also, if you could have seen these tracks by eye rather than just photos, I think it would be more clear that this bird was too small to be a Canada Goose. In that respect, the quiz is harder than real tracking.

Gull would also be an excellent guess, as gull tracks are very similar to ducks. These tracks are on the order of size of a herring gull, but too large for laughing gull, ring-billed gull or mew gull, and too small for black-backed gull, for instance. From what I have seen, gulls have less of a "pigeon-toed" waddle with less inward pitch, a longer stride, and show the nails more than these photos.

In this case, I happen to know that this parcel of land is full of ducks and absent of gulls; otherwise it would have been difficult to conclusively rule out a herring gull. They were very fine tracks nonetheless, and I enjoyed studying and photographing them. Hope you did too.

Hope you enjoyed this quiz and stay tuned for the next one!


Quiz #17 - Question      ...on to Quiz #18

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