Finally Wigeons

Eurasian Wigeons (Mareca penelope) and American Wigeons (Mareca americana)

I hadn’t seen American Wigeons at the park since April 2019, and the uncommon Eurasian Wigeon since January 2018. Here, mixed in with a handful of scaup and coots, some unusual flashes of red, green, and white caught my eye, and closer examination showed two wigeon pairs, one Eurasian, the other American. The video shows the Eurasian first, with the male’s reddish head, and then the American, where the male has a green iridescent stripe on either side of a broad cream-colored stripe on the crown. The females’ plumage is brownish-greyish and the two species look similar.

These two species are frequently seen together in their winter range. That’s quite an accomplishment, since they come from distant breeding grounds. The American bird breeds in Alaska and sub-arctic Canada as well as in the northern mountain states. The Eurasians that occasionally visit here are thought to breed in Siberia. Yet the two species manage to find one another. How do they do that? MATWOB (Mysterious Are The Ways Of Birds).

Both species of wigeons are dabblers, similar to Mallards, unable to dive. But they manage to feed in deeper water by stealing food from diving birds like coots and scaup. I’ve seen them steal greenery out of a coot’s bill after a dive. They’re mostly vegetarian, and also forage on grasslands.

I returned to the spot where I first saw them, off the north shore, the next day. I could not see them then. But two days later I saw a pair of American Wigeons near the outfall of Schoolhouse Creek (map). Photo below.

Eurasian Wigeon male (Mareca penelope)

American Wigeon male (Mareca americana)
American Wigeon male (Mareca americana) (left) and Eurasian Wigeon male (Mareca penelope)
Pair of American Wigeons (Mareca americana) near Schoolhouse Creek

More about the Eurasian Wigeon: Wikipedia Cornell Audubon In Chavez Park

More about the American Wigeon: Wikipedia Cornell Audubon In Chavez Park

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