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Word of the Week: Speculum

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Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each week to amp up your nature vocabulary!

This week’s word of the week is speculum [speh-cue-lumm] (noun): a bright, distinctly coloured patch on the secondary wing feathers of some birds, particularly ducks.

While speculums can be seen in other birds, ducks arguably have the most noticeable, iridescent speculum feathers. These feathers aren’t always visible when the duck is at rest, waddling around, or swimming. But you can see them when ducks spread their wings during flight or when they’re preening their feathers.

Speculum feathers vary in colour, size and any other border colours surrounding the speculum feathers in different species of ducks. The typically iridescent colours of these feathers also means that their colour might look different depending on the lighting conditions and your angle of view.

High Park’s two main species of ducks are mallards and wood ducks. Mallards have iridescent purple-blue speculum feathers (pictured above), while wood ducks have dark blue-green speculums (pictured below).

More on ducks in High Park:

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