New British Columbia short spotlights West Coast ‘fancy ducks’


British Columbia is home to majestic beasts — cougars, grizzly bears, killer whales — but some Vancouver Island-based avid birders say one of the province’s most attractive but underappreciated creatures is ducks.

Connel Bradwell and Ryan Wilkes of Victoria, BC have teamed up to create the new short fancy ducks which features four different breeds of ducks that can be spotted around the province that the duo deemed, well, whimsical.

Their fantasy criteria don’t follow a scientific formula, but rather a superficial one: if the duck makes you do a double take because it’s exceptionally catchy, then, according to the duo, it makes the cut.

“Fancy ducks are ducks that have a bit more flair,” Wilkes said, speaking to CBC. From North to Northwest.

Harlequin ducks play on the rocks in Oak Bay, British Columbia. Ducks emit a unique sound similar to a mouse squeal and can dive up to 20 meters below the ocean surface. (Fancy Ducks)

Wilkes is a wildlife filmmaker by trade and Bradwell is a wildlife advocate. The film follows the two of them to a handful of locations in the Greater Victoria area as they go in search of the fanciest ducks possible.

Bradwell and Wilkes met at a wildlife film conference in 2021. The intention of their film, they told CBC, is to show their audiences how easy it is to spot beautiful birds in British Columbia.

In Oak Bay, viewers encounter the harlequin duck – a small sea duck so named for its colorful markings. They have a white crescent in front of the eyes and a white patch near the ear. Their feathers are mostly dark blue with reddish-brown spots on the side; they have a dark brown belly; their heads are crowned with a black band and maroon bands on each side.

“They look like they’re going to some sort of black tie event, especially the men, they look like they’re wearing a little tuxedo,” Wilkes explains in the film.

WATCH | To verify fancy ducks and see for yourself the bourgeois birds:

The couple’s enthusiasm radiates through the film as they revel in their discoveries.

They also introduce the public to the northern pintail, which they find swimming in the sea at Saanich. This breed also gets the fancy seal of approval for its looks. The female pintail is brown with intricate patterns, and the males have blue beaks and impressive long pointed tails.

Next is the wave scoter, which is almost entirely velvety black with a bill colored with white, red and yellow, with a black patch near the base. The addition of the surf scoter may turn a few heads.

“A fancy duck makes you look twice,” says Bradwell.

Pintails can be found across Canada. (Tim Morrill)

The last duck of the day is the wood duck, which the pair find in a forest in Saanich where the breed likes to nest in trees. They have sharp claws that help them cling and climb so they can get to their penthouses, also known as old woodpecker holes.

Wood ducks are no slouch in the looks department. Females have a delicate white pattern around the eye and males are green and brown in color with patterns on almost all the feathers.

“Certainly the fanciest duck we have in BC,” a delighted Bradwell says in the film.