Monday, April 7, 2014

(almost) a Eurasian Wigeon

North Bay Park at Grand Mere is one of the better spots to see good numbers of ducks in Berrien Co, with Ring-necks, Lesser Scaup, and Redhead frequently predominating.  Wigeon and Gadwall will hang out, trying to steal whatever food the others bring up.  About the 3rd duck I looked at today was a wigeon with an orange head.  I'll bet these pics could pass muster as the real thing with the proper description...

The bird was fairly distant and my camera didn't do a good job of picking up the two-toned orange to the head that was readily apparent through the scope.

Rhoda's phone-scope of it gives a more accurate impression though the jaw/cheek was a little orangier at most angles in live viewing.
Where an American Wigeon would have the green head stripe this bird has the dark orange, about the right color for a Eurasian Wigeon.  Unfortunately it has the paler jaw and cheek of an American.  I considered whether it was simply an aberrant American, but it has the gray back of a Eurasian.  In Amercans the back is the same pinky-gray as the breast and side panel.  The more rear aspects of the side panel are gray on this bird, also supportive of Eurasian genes.

Interestingly the American it was closest to (which is visible in the last 2 pics) has a much reduced area of green to the side of the head, just a little patch that surrounds the eye.  My guess is that was due to happenstance or else two odd-balls tolerating each other better than the more stereotypical Americans since I saw no evidence of plumage abnormalities in the 2nd bird.

Hybrids have been recorded in eBird in the eastern U.S. at about 10% the rate of pure Eurasian's, though I don't know if that's because they're truly much less common or if people just don't bother entering them

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