A Eurasian among Americans

On a grey, drizzly, late afternoon in February, I stood on the western shore of Trout Lake, watching American Wigeons swim and whistle. The light wasn’t very good but one of the ducks seemed to have an unusual head colour. I stared; it got closer. It had a light patch on top of its head but the sides of its head were red not green. I took a picture. It was fuzz-tastic. When I went back to Trout Lake a week later, in the morning sun, the unusual red head swam a little closer to shore and I took a better picture.

I walked to Trout Lake this morning. A group of American Wigeons had walked onto the grassy field by the northwest end of the lake. I wondered if the Eurasian was among them. Could I spot him with my naked eyes? I scanned the group once, twice, three times. I laughed at myself. I tried again and there it was. Really! The one and only red head. He could have been with the Wigeons on the other end of the lake but he wasn’t.

Are there any female Eurasian Wigeons at Trout Lake? Or males with non-breeding plumage? I don’t know. I can’t tell them apart from the Americans.

Here is what All About Birds has to say about Eurasian Wigeons in North America:

“Common and widespread in the Old World, the Eurasian Wigeon is a sporadic visitor to North America. Regular in very small numbers along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, single individuals have turned up in nearly all states and provinces.”

“Although the Eurasian Wigeon has not yet been found breeding in North America, it is possible that some do. The Eurasian Wigeons seen each year in North America likely come from eastern Siberia and Iceland.”

“Female, eclipse male, and immature very difficult to distinguish; the best mark is the color of the axillaries (“armpits”), which are gray on Eurasian Wigeon and white on American Wigeon.”


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