Ducks Tag

Ring-necked pheasants were plentiful in and around the rice fields of Butte County during the 1950s.

The Road Hunter

Ring-necked pheasants were plentiful in and around the rice fields of Butte County during the 1950s.

Ring-necked pheasants were plentiful in and around the rice fields of Butte County during the 1950s. Photo by author.

“That’s strange,” said Berg, pulling to a stop and reaching for his binoculars. “What’s that fancy new car doing out here in the middle of all these rice fields?” It was mid-morning in early August 1954, and the enthusiastic young rookie warden was patrolling for pheasant poachers near the Northern California farming community of Biggs.

Pintails mingle with white-fronted geese at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Steven T. Callan.

The Most Beautiful Duck in North America

Pintails mingle with white-fronted geese at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Steven T. Callan.

Pintails mingle with white-fronted geese at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. All photos by author.

Ask any waterfowl enthusiast to name the most beautiful duck in North America, and he or she will most likely point to the brilliant, multicolored, drake wood duck (Aix sponsa). Others might claim that the iridescent green head of a drake mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is hard to beat. For me, the graceful pose of a drake pintail (Anas acuta), with its long, slender neck and chocolate-brown head, places this species at the top of the list.