Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Eurasian Wigeon--Anas penelope--A Rare Bird

I staked this Male Eurasian Wigeon out for at least a half hour to get these pictures.
Spotting a Eurasian Wigeon certainly was exciting for me since I had never spotted one before. Knowing what to look for and when to look for it made me take a second look at a flock of American Wigeons taking a nap on Lake Huntington in Huntington Central Park. I knew it was the right time of year--winter. And I knew that they often travel with flocks of American Wigeons. So I took my time slowly scanning the flock of American Wigeons bobbing on the lake. 

Finally, this bird wakes up so I can get a picture of his black-tipped blue bill.

There are a lot more Eurasian Wigeons flying along the flyways on the Pacific Coast than there are on the Atlantic Coast. One reason for that is how close the continents are up by Alaska. Eurasian Wigeons, as you might guess by the name, are common in Europe and Asia. They breed in the northern areas of Europe and Asia. They winter in the southern areas of Europe and Asia, and in northern Africa. It makes sense that they might mix and mingle with our American Wigeons up north by Alaska and Siberia and end up migrating down the Pacific Coast with our American Wigeons. Our American Wigeons also turn up in Asia and in Europe.

Most of the time I spent watching the Eurasian Wigeon, I saw this.

Like the American Wigeon, the Eurasian Wigeon is a dabbling duck. You will see its head go under the water, and its tail end stick up. This is no diving duck. It eats aquatic plants and terrestrial plants. It also eats seeds and occasional insects. It is not uncommon to see it on the grass with the American Wigeon eating plants and roots and insects.

Taking a drink in this fresh water lake.

Eurasian Wigeons are both very similar and very different than American Wigeons. Both have similarly shaped heads with a center stripe on its head and a small blue bill tipped with black. But the Eurasian Wigeon lacks the black patterning on the cheeks, and it has a buff rather than white center stripe. What sets it apart most distinctly is the reddish head. It really stands out in a crowd of American Wigeons.

Back to sleep.

 The confusing this is that Eurasian Wigeons and American Wigeons hybridize often and what indicates a hybrid has been debated by birders for quite a while. Some insist that some or most Eurasian Wigeons have a little green behind the eye while others insist those are hybrids. The most tell-tale indicator of a hybrid seems to be an extended green eye-stripe rather than a small patch, and/or black patterning on the cheeks like an American Wigeon. In addition, the Eurasian Wigeon has gray sides and the American has brown sides. The female has a warmer head color than the American Wigeon and no black border at the base of its blue bill. Since Eurasian Wigeons hang out almost exclusively with their American cousins, it pays in fall and winter to check out any flocks of Wigeons for the Eurasian Wigeons.

All tucked in. Even with its bill tucked in, the reddish head is like a beacon across the lake saying, Eurasian Wigeon!

Eurasian Wigeons can be found in wetlands, lakes, channels, ponds, bays, and community parks with lakes or lawns. Unfortunately, they do not breed here--no records yet. However, many people suspect that on occasion, they do and that we will someday have records of Eurasian Wigeons breeding in North America.


 In years past, Eurasian Wigeons have also been seen in Orange County at Clark Regional Park, and Carr Park. In general we can say that if you want to see Eurasian Wigeons, look for them starting in October and through March--on occasion as late as April. Definitely check out Upper Newport Bay near San Joaquin Hills Road. Don't forget Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Also check out lakes in parks like Tewinkle, Huntington Central Park, Village Park, Twin Lakes, Carr Park, Clark Regional Park. Most places you see American Wigeons, you may see Eurasian Wigeons. Birding in Orange County during fall and winter is a lot of fun due to the migrants and wintering waterfowl. There are always a few rare birds around. So when you go out birding in Orange County in the fall or winter, keep your eyes peeled for the Eurasian Wigeon and other rare migrants and wintering waterfowl.

OC Birder Girl Links

American Wigeon--Anas americana

The Wild Ducks of Orange County

Odd Ducks

Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Central Park in Huntington Beach

San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary

Tewinkle Park -- Costa Mesa

Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve aka Newport Back Bay

Where a lot of sightings have occurred. Usually just past the parking lot by the Big Canyon spillway.

External Links and Resources

All About Birds: Eurasian Wigeon

Page about the rare bird the Eurasian Wigeon.

Animal Diversity Web: Eurasian Wigeon

Detailed article by students at Michigan State University.

Journal of Field Ornithology: Vol. 63, No. 3, Summer, 1992

Auk: Vol. 107, No. 1, January-March, 1990

Very good detailed article with pictures on distinguishing the female Eurasian Wigeon from the American Wigeon.

Detailed information from the Seattle Audubon Society.

Photos of Eurasian Wigeons.

Great Migration and wintering map with links to other range information and images of Eurasian Wigeons.

Videos of Eurasian Wigeons. Good quality.

Very good close up shot of Eurasian Wigeon.
Ohio Division of Wildlife: Eurasian Wigeon
Short article with no photo, but a nice sound clip.
USGS: Eurasian Wigeon
Short, but helpful Article.

Notice that the Eurasian Wigeon's call, though similar, is different than the American Wigeon. If you familiarize yourself with it, you will have one more clue that a Eurasian Wigeon is in a crowd of American Wigeons.

Telling an American Wigeon and a Eurasian Wigeon Apart
American Wigeon x Eurasian Wigeon at Rhododendron Gardens
Interesting discussion on Flicker about whether a bird with green on it is a hybrid or not.
Discussion of American and Eurasian Wigeons and pictures of both and a hybrid Wigeon.
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.
Is a green patch evidence that the bird is a hybrid or do many Eurasian Wigeons have it?
Article with pictures, illustrations, and text about American and Eurasian Wigeons in many plumages.
Picture of male Eurasian and male American Wigeons. See also this picture of a hybrid.

Where have Eurasian Wigeons been seen in Orange County?

(Compiled from the Orange County Rare Bird Alert. Tried my best to get it right --hope I didn't miss anything.)

Weekly Report March 5, 2008 --Tri-City Park in Placentia

Weekly Report February 27th, 2008--Hungtington Central Park West Side

(My sighting--photos above.)

Weekly Report February 20th, 2008--Lake Forest off of Ridge Route between Muirlands and Rockfield 23102 Ridge Route Drive, Lake Forest

Weekly Report February 13th, 2008--Upper Newport Bay

Weekly Report Nov 28th, 2007--below San Joaquin Hills Road and the Big Canyon area off of Back Bay Drive.

Weekly Report Nov 21st, 2007--Upper Newport Bay the Big Canyon area off of Back Bay Drive.

Weekly Report March 14th, 2007--Tewinkle Park, Costa Mesa

Weekly Report March 7th, 2007--Tewinkle Park, Costa Mesa

Weekly Report February 21st, 2007--Tewinkle Park in Costa Mesa, northern boundary

Weekly Report February 14th, 2007-- Upper Newport Bay

Weekly Report January 17th, 2007--Tewinkle Park, Costa Mesa

Weekly Report January 10th, 2007--Tewinkle Park, Costa Mesa

Weekly Report December 20th, 2006--Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Weekly Report December 6th, 2006--Village Pond Park 23102 Ridge Route Drive, Lake Forest

Weekly Report November 15th, 2006-- Big Canyon area of Upper Newport Bay off of Back Bay Drive

Weekly Report March 1st, 2006--Upper Newport Bay, Big Canyon area (east side)

Weekly Report February 15th, 2006--Lake Forest Golf and Practice Course near the 5th hole in the pond

Weekly Report January 25th, 2006--Garden Grove Community Center...nearby lake

Weekly Report January 4th, 2006--Upper Newport Bay

Weekly Report December 7th, 2005--Upper Newport Bay 4 males and one female

Weekly Report November 30th, 2005--Huntington Central Park East Side

Weekly Report November 23rd, 2005--Huntington Central Park, east side

Weekly Report November 16th, 2005--Upper Newport Bay at San Joaquin Hills Road and Back Bay Drive

Weekly Report November 9th, 2005--San Joaquin Hills Road and BackBay Drive.

Weekly Report November 2nd, 2005--Village Pond Park 23102 Ridge Route Drive, Lake Forest

Weekly Report October 26th, 2005--"the exit of Big Canyon, Upper Newport Bay"

Weekly Report October 12th, 2005--"an eclipse male EURASIAN WIGEON was at the end of San Joaquin Hills Road in Upper Newport Bay"

Weekly Report March 23, 2005 --Twin Lakes Park in Garden Grove

Weekly Report March 9, 2005--Laguna Niguel Regional Park, "last reported this morning (Wed) along the little stream near shelter #3" AND Upper Newport Bay

Weekly Report February 23, 2005--Laguna Niguel Regional Park near Shelter #7

Weekly Report February 16, 2005--"Upper Newport Bay, as many as 3 EURASIAN WIGEON were seen along Back Bay Drive"

Weekly Report February 9, 2005--Twin Lakes Park in Garden Grove Lampson and Haster

Weekly Report February 2, 2005--Laguna Niguel Regional Park and Twin Lakes Park

Weekly Report January 26, 2005--Upper Newport Bay

Weekly Report January 19, 2005--Village Pond Park
23102 Ridge Route Drive, Lake Forest

Weekly Report January 12, 2005--Village Pond Park 23102 Ridge Route Drive, Lake Forest

Weekly Report January 5, 2005--Upper Newport Bay

Weekly Report December 1, 2004--Village Pond Park (Lake Forest)

Weekly Report November 17, 2004--Back Bay Drive and San Joaquin Hills Rd in Upper Newport Bay

Weekly Report November 3, 2004--Upper Newport Bay--" two different EURASIAN WIGEONS were reported, one at the end of San Joaquin Hills Road, the other at the exit spillway of Big Canyon."

Weekly Report October 27, 2004--Upper Newport Bay

Weekly Report October 6, 2004--Laguna Niguel Regional Park

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