Sharing Algae

Algae doesn’t have a lot of friends in the world, but Wigeons and Coots at the park consider it a treat. When a low tide exposed a stripe of the green stuff covering the rip-rap east of the Burrowing Owl area, both American Wigeons and American Coots headed for it and nibbled at it energetically. The Wigeons, being ducks, stayed in the water and scraped and sucked at the green stuff with the tips of their broad, flat beaks. The much superior Coots, not being ducks, were able to use their versatile feet to climb on the rocks and graze on the algae with the side of their sharp, pointy beaks, probably getting a bigger beakful with each bite.

Most interesting, the birds didn’t clash. In other settings, where the Wigeons outnumbered the Coots, the Wigeons tailed the Coots as they dove, and then blatantly stole the Coots’ green catch when they surfaced. See The Wigeons Are Back, 12/4/17. Here the two species nibbled and munched side by side without apparent larceny. Maybe algae just isn’t worth fighting over.

P.S. The Wigeons are mostly brown; the male has a green stripe on the side of his head. The Coots are all black with white beaks.

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