Monday, November 19, 2007

American Wigeon--Anas americana

Male American Wigeon at Carr Park in Huntington Beach

You will find American Wigeons in parks among the Mallards and American Coot, and in the wilder areas. You will hear them whistle out in the lakes and sometimes on the grass.

Along the Winterburg channel at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

The American Wigeon is a wintering bird in Orange County. We see Wigeons in fall, winter, and spring, but in summer, they are absent. Although American Wigeons are not in full breeding plumage when they arrive, but by November the males have the green stripe through the eye.

Male and female American Wigeons in a crowd of American Coots--Carr Park in Huntington Beach

I like American Wigeons. They are pretty and colorful. I like the petite little blue bill. So duck-like and so different. But most of all I like the fact that Wigeons whistle. It is a kind of lonely whistle that makes you think of a quiet marsh or country pond. It isn't exuberant and loud like the Mallard's quack. It is part of the atmosphere of a wetlands in the winter. That special sound. Mallards quack. Wigeons whistle.

Stretching for a bit of vegetation down the channel at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

It is a dabbling duck, but also loves to graze on vegetation on dry land. Basically, it loves its veggies more than other ducks. You will find it grazing on lawns with Mallards and American Coot. It also eats seeds and insects in the lawns and grasses and on the water.

Male on the lawn by Alice's Breakfast in the Park at Huntington Central Park West.

Female American Wigeon

At this time of year you can find Wigeons in Orange County at parks with ponds and lawns like Carr Park, both sides of Huntington Central Park, Mile Square Park, Tewinkle Park, and many others. You can also find them at wetlands and marshes like the San Joaquin Marsh, The San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, Newport Back Bay, and others. And at rivers like the Santa Ana River, and other rivers, streams, and canals.

Mallards quack, Wigeons whistle at Huntington Central Park West.

They do tend to mix in with other ducks at parks--especially Mallards and aren't above being seen with American Coots. You will see them feeding on the lawn and pan handling from people feeding the ducks.

Note the buffy stripe on the crown.

A male American Wigeon with a white cheek at Carr Park. An infrequent variation.

There is a lot of variation in American Wigeons that is subtle. There are American Wigeons with white cheeks or with buffy-colored stripes on their crowns. Don't let it throw you.

Notice that this American Wigeon has a buffy or cream coloring to the head stripe.

The point is that as birders observe more what a birds looks like from many different angles, the easier it is to recognize it. There are sometimes variations in plumage. There are male and female plumages, and eclipse or non-breeding plumage. It doesn't always look like the book.

American Wigeons grazing on the lawn at Tewinkle Park

Eurasian Wigeon at Huntington Central Park .

On occasion, you will find a rare bird tucked in among the American Wigeons on a pond, lake, or lawn. The closely related Eurasian Wigeon has been popping up more frequently in Orange County. It has a cinnamon head, a buffy center stripe and similar body markings. Check out the crowd of American Wigeons carefully next time you are birding in Orange County. The male Eurasian Wigeon is unmistakable.

Up Winterburg Channel at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve.

Here is a video that I took at Carr Park in Huntington Beach at Heil and McFadden. A male American Wigeon whistles. Listen for the other Wigeons amid the Mallard quacks and the caws of the crows. This is a neighborhood park near two busy streets so you also do hear traffic.

American Wigeons can be seen at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve ,

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary , Huntington Central Park, Mile Square Park, Mason Regional Park , Carr Park, Tewinkle Park, and just about any park or wildlife area with a lake, pond, or large puddle. American Wigeons spend the winter and fall and toward spring, their ranks start to dwindle. This is an easy bird to spot or hear when you bird in Orange County. Check out the lakes and ponds in your Orange County neighborhood.

American Wigeon--Anas americana from OC Birder Girl on Vimeo.


American Wigeon from Cornell's All About Birds

Compare with the Eurasian Wigeon profile from Cornell--notice the picture of the Eurasian Wigeon is from Orange County, CA.

Animal Diversity Web from Michigan University: American Wigeon

Animal Diversity Web's very detailed web page on the American Wigeon. The University of Michigan has lots of good information on the ADW.

US Geological Survey's American Wigeon Page

Short page about American Wigeons

Lots of good information form the Audubon Society in Seattle. All geared to Washington State, so bear that in mind.

USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Page on Migrating Waterfowl

Their page on the American Wigeon. Lots of great illustrations.

Telling an American Wigeon and a Eurasian Wigeon Apart

Friends of Greenlake (Washington): American and Eurasian Wigeons

Discussion of American and Eurasian Wigeons and pictures of both and a hybrid Wigeon.

Eurasian and American Wigeon Hybrids
Picture and short paragraph on Wigeon hybrids. From Arizona Field Ornithologists. Also see this picture of an American-Eurasian Wigeon hybrid. Also see their comparison of American and Eurasian Wigeons.

Identification of Wigeons from the ABA
Article with pictures, illustrations, and text about American and Eurasian Wigeons in many plumages.

From Eurasian and American Wigeons
Picture of male Eurasian and male American Wigeons. See also this picture of a hybrid.


Internet Bird Collection: American Wigeon

Videos of American Wigeons.

Confusing Domestic Ducks from Cornell

Sorts out some confusing plumages.

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