“I knew we should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque”

A very rare sight greeted us at PPL’s Susquehanna Riverlands recently: a cluster of about 10 very unusual ducks were lounging in the sun along the shores of Lake Took-A-While. Upon closer inspection, and after hurriedly consulting a field guide or two, we were fairly astounded to see that they were black-bellied whistling ducks (Dendrocygna autumnalis).

The reason for our astonishment is that black-bellies are an almost exclusively neotropical species. They winter in Mexico and Central America, and it is extremely rare that they venture farther into the United States than their summer habitat in southern Texas. So these guys were nearly 2,000 miles north of their typical stomping grounds in the lone star state.

What brought them this far north? Are they escapees from a zoo or private collection? How long will they stay? Will they be back next year? Only the ducks know for certain, and they aren’t saying. But we sure are proud these wayward Texans found Pennsylvania’s Riverlands a tempting place to set a spell.

Y’all come back now, ya’ hear? 

The photo of our ducks is a scan of an original taken by Tom Royce of Serenity Images Nature Photography in Wilkes-Barre. Mr. Royce is a frequent visitor here in the Riverlands, and we appreciate his permission to use this picture.

You can see pictures that other birders have taken of the Riverlands ducks here and here.

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