American Wigeon


Leonard and I took advantage of a cloudless day to go to Baum Lake (Shasta County CA). Birds are beginning their spring migrations and the number of bird species are increasing.

The American wigeon (Anas americana) breeds in the northwestern part of North America but can be found throughout the continent during the winter and migrations.

A rather colorful dabbler (feeds by tipping headfirst into the water to graze on aquatic plants), the male wigeon has a white forehead and glossy dark green patch from the eye to the nape. When the sun hits this patch at the correct angle it looks iridescent. The eclipse male (non breeding) has varying amounts of white and green on its head. The female’s head is grayish overall. The breast and flanks of both sexes are varying shades of reddish-brown and the bill of both males and females are a bluish gray with a black tip. The wigeon bill is smaller than that of other dabblers. This smaller bill exerts more force at the tip and is thus more efficient in dislodging vegetation.

A resident of freshwater wetlands, including marshes and rivers, the diet of the American wigeon is almost entirely plant matter, although during the breeding season some insects and mollusks are eaten. The wigeon also moves onto land and will graze on the vegetation in fields. The wigeon is often found amid flocks of American coots where it will snatch food from the coot as it surfaces. Indeed, the wigeon were amid the coots at Baum Lake.

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