As spring approaches, the numbers and diversity at Portland’s Westmoreland Park are starting to wain. The winter gull flock is down to Glaucous-winged X Western hybrids and two Herring Gulls. While there is no shortage of white-cheeked geese, there were very few other species of waterfowl on this visit.
The highlight of this trip was a pair of Hooded Mergansers squabbling over a large crayfish. The female finally won possession and, with a great deal of effort, swallowed the crustacean.
There must be some powerful muscles in that little neck.
Two Eurasian Wigeons, both females, remain with the local American Wigeon flock. Here is one of the Eurasians next to a male American.
Here is a close-up of the Eurasian Wigeon. Note the warm brown color and the lack of a black outline around the base of the bill.
Taverner’s Cackling Goose, with a partial white neck ring. It will be just a few weeks before these birds head back north, and we will have to console ourselves with warblers and flycatchers.
It’s always nice when similar species pose side by side for direct comparison. These two wigeons, Eurasian on the left, American on the right, were engaged in some synchronized grazing. The female Eurasian Wigeon is a warm brown color, compared to the colder gray/brown tones of the American.
Male wigeons are easier. The Eurasian has a rusty head with just a hint of green behind the eye, and a clear demarcation between the pinkish breast and the gray vermiculated sides.
Here are some random shots of some of the many waterfowl species that winter in the Willamette Valley
This Common Merganser was swimming with her face submerged, looking for fish. I have also seen loons hunt in this way.
the same bird preening
Here she finally shows her face. The clearly demarcated white chin helps to differentiate this species from the similar Red-breasted Merganser.
This female Eurasian Wigeon is recognized by her brown head. Notice the female American Wigeon on the right with her gray head.
Here is a distant shot of a mixed flock of waterfowl (click to enlarge). From left to right, you can see Ring-necked Duck, Canvasback, Cackling Goose, American Coot, and American Wigeon.
I combed the wigeon flocks at Portland’s Westmoreland Park and found examples of both species.
The bird in front is a male Eurasian Wigeon; the two in back are male American Wigeons. On the Eurasian, note the rusty head with the blond crown and the clear demarcation between the rose breast and gray sides.
another shot of the male Eurasian
The female Eurasian Wigeon has a warm brown head that blends in with the breast. The markings on the head are diminshed in the throat area.
Here’s the female Eurasian Wigeon with the male in the background.
On a female American Wigeon, the gray head contrasts with the brown breast. The head markings remain bold in the throat area.
On some male American Wigeons, the cream color of the crown extends over much of the face.
The bird in back is a typical male American Wigeon. The bird in front is a hybrid American X Eurasian Wigeon. The hybrid shows the rusty head coloring of a Eurasian with the green eye-stripe of an American. The bird’s sides show both rose and gray.
The same hybrid, showing an even blending of characteristics from both species.
With the onset of cooler temperatures and short days, a birder’s attentions are drawn to the avian stars of the Willamette Valley in winter, waterfowl and gulls. Yes, there are sparrows about, and the American Goldfinches are emptying my feeders on a daily basis. But I really enjoy the cacophony of a few thousand Cackling Geese and the challenging genetic soup that makes up the gulls of the West Coast.
American and Eurasian Wigeons