Posts Tagged 'American Widgeon'

Iona: October 28th 2012

The last time I was able to get out birding was when I wrote about my walk through Queen Elizabeth Park weeks ago. Luckily on Sunday I wasn’t entirely swamped with homework and the weather seemed cooperative, enabling me to get briefly for a walk down Iona’s south jetty with my mom.

The first thing I noticed upon exiting the car was a series of bangs set off by the airport workers in charge of keeping the birds out of the paths of the aircraft. This was followed by the over flight of a number panic stricken Snow Geese and other waterfowl in a hurry to get out of there! At the base of the south side of the jetty a number of ducks were sleeping or resting; apparently undeterred by the airport staff’s fireworks. A quick scan of this group produced a Eurasian Wigeon sleeping amongst its American brethren.

As I set up my scope to scan the area to the north of the jetty I noticed another birder waving and pointing at something. It was a Short-eared Owl flying right past my position! I quite likely might have missed the owl if it hadn’t been for the other birder, so thank you!

The walk down the rest of the jetty held only the regular species one might expect to see at this time of year; including Horned Grebe, Surf Scoter and Red-breasted Merganser. As I was with my mom we opted not to walk the full length to the jetty’s end but turned around about halfway out. Although I was only able to bird for a short while, any amount of time outside after spending so long behind my desk was a welcome reprieve!


Maplewood: January 23rd 2010

This Saturday I was again out at Maplewood Conservation Area. The tide was in when I visited the mudflats and I wasn’t expecting much in the way of activity. A scan of the area produced a few Bufflehead, two Pelagic Cormorants, a Common Loon, and the usual compliment of gulls. However, when I checked out the northern section of mudflats I found two birds of note…

Upon scanning the salt marsh I spotted a male Eurasian Widgeon among a group of American Widgeon. The ducks were milling in and amongst the flooded marsh plants with a couple of Green-winged Teals. Unfortunately the birds were too far away to get any recognizable photo when I held my camera up to my bins but this picture shows the characteristic bright russet-red head of the Eurasian Widgeon… or at least I think it does.

After ten minutes or so of observing the Eurasian Widgeon I noticed a group of Northwestern Crows making a bit of a racket. One of them made a swooping pass at something perched in one of the conifer trees near the McCartney Creek outflow. It turned out to be a Red-tailed Hawk; a familiar bird of the street lights of Highway One but uncommon at Maplewood according to the WBT’s checklist. I wonder if it wasn’t contemplating making a meal of the ducks directly below in the salt marsh; waterfowl are occasionally prey for Red-tailed Hawk, among many other animals (1). At least in this photo you can see the hawk and the reddish tail that gives the species its name.

It was nice to get out from behind the desk and do some birding even if it was only for a short time.


  1. Preston, C. R. and R. D. Beane. 2009. Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:

Ambleside Park: December 12th 2009

A quick bit of birding was in order in between studying for exams and so I got out of the house and went to Ambleside for a little under an hour. The duck pond was partially iced over forcing the birds swim and forage in a smaller area. It was almost comical to watch some of the ducks gingerly walking across the ice as it began to crack underfoot.

Several Lesser Scaup were diving close to the edge of the pond and so it was possible to view them zooming around underwater from the trail. Their main source of food includes insects, crustaceans, and mollusks; although seeds and aquatic vegetation are also consumed in some areas (Austin et al 1998). I’m sure I’ve also seen them occasionally surface with a fish in their bill. Prey is primarily consumed underwater (Tome and Wrubleski 1988).

Other duck species included Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, and large numbers of Mallard and American Widgeon. The resident Mute Swans were also foraging and occasionally bullying other ducks that got too close.

It’s amazing what birding can do in terms of recharging one’s batteries. Once I got back to studying it almost felt as though I had just woken up from a good night’s sleep.


Austin, Jane E., Christine M. Custer and Alan D. Afton. 1998. Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:

Tome, M. W. and D. A. Wrubleski. 1988. Underwater foraging behavior of Canvasbacks, Lesser Scaups, and Ruddy Ducks. Condor 90:168-172.

Maplewood: October 10th 2009

I spent a few hours at Maplewood yesterday and there were several good birds active on the mudflats. Besides the large numbers of American Widgeons several Bufflehead and a single female Lesser Scaup were diving to the southeast of the viewing area. On saltwater Lesser Scaup and Bufflehead predominately consume invertebrates such as crustaceans, and molluscs (Gauthier 1993, Austin et al 1998). Green-winged Teal were also present close to shore and I spotted a lone Northern Shoveler intermixed with a raft of American Widgeon. Various gull species (Mew, Glaucous-winged, Thayer’s, and Ring-billed) were on shore and in the water.

Two Greater Yellowlegs were foraging near the Blueridge Creek outflow in the northern section of the mudflats and two Killdeer were also at the same location. During the day Greater Yellowlegs acquire food through swift stabs at the surface. On mudflats their main prey is small aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates (Elphick and Tibbitts 1998).

Shortly after sighting the Yellowlegs I observed two Long-billed Dowitchers foraging in classic sewing machine like feeding behaviour in the shallows. Dowitcher’s feed primarily on polychaetes, bivalves, and amphipods present in soft muddy substrate (Takekawa and Warnock 2000). They detect their prey through the use of tactile receptors known as Herbst corpuscles at the tip of their bill (Burton 1972).

Both Short and Long-billed Dowitchers are in non-breeding plumage during fall migration making identification in the field very difficult. In addition to consulting numerous field guides I have found this article by Cin-Ty Lee and Andrew Birch on the surfbirds website to be particularly helpful.

I find it particularly interesting how the two species of shorebirds I observed yesterday differ in bill physiology and foraging behaviour and so can coexist on the same stretch of mudflat.


Gauthier, Gilles. 1993. Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:

Austin, Jane E., Christine M. Custer and Alan D. Afton. 1998. Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:

Elphick, Chris S. and T. Lee Tibbitts. 1998. Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:

Takekawa, John Y. and Nils Warnock. 2000. Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:

Burton, P. J. K. 1972. The feeding techniques of Stilt Sandpipers and dowitchers. San Diego Soc. Nat. Hist., Trans. 17:63-68.

Maplewood: September 26th 2009

I was at Maplewood again around midday today. As soon as I arrived at the mudflats I heard the call of an American Pipit (a low series of high, clear or jingling phrases tseewl-tseewl-tseewl . . . or pleetrr-pleetrr-pleetrr and other variations; given in flight for up to 15 seconds according to Sibley’s). There were three present foraging on the mudflat about a metre from the water’s edge. About five minutes after I arrived, however, they took flight to the South. Scanning the ducks present revealed the usual mix of American Widgeon, Northern Pintail, and a few Mallards that have been here for the past couple of weeks.

Two ducks soon caught my attention though. My instinct told me they were Blue-winged Teal but I decided to consult my field guide before positively identifying the two birds as they were in non-breeding plumage and my confidence at ascertaining the correct ID in this state is still a little sketchy. They were indeed Blue-winged Teal. The ducks were on the water close to shore about twenty metres north of the viewing area. Early August into mid October is when this species migrates through British Columbia (Cambell et al 1990). For many their final destination for the winter is northern South America although a larger proportion of birds banded in western provinces and states tend to be found in Mexico (Rohwer et al 2002).

Once again I didn’t have enough time to see what was going on the western side of the area so I went straight for the bird feeders near the entrance. Their wasn’t as much activity as I had seen yesterday evening but several species including Black-capped Chickadee, House Finch and Song Sparrow visited the seed while I was there. A male Downy Woodpecker also ate some suet before flying off into the trees.

I often feel that I learn far more about the world when out birding than I do while reading a textbook or attending a lecture…


Campbell, R. W., N. K. Dawe, I. McTaggart-Cowan, J. M. Cooper, G. W. Kaiser and M. C. E. McNall. 1990. The birds of British Columbia. Vol. 1: introduction and loons through waterfowl. R. Br. Columbia Mus., Victoria.

Rohwer, Frank C., William P. Johnson and Elizabeth R. Loos. 2002. Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online:

Maplewood: September 25th 2009

I was able to find the time to visit Maplewood Conservation Area this Friday evening. The bird feeders in the fenced off maintenance/gardening area near the entrance had been stocked full of seed so there was a fair bit of activity occurring. Black-capped Chickadees, Song Sparrows, and a few Spotted Towhees were, of course, present. A male and juvenile Downy Woodpecker was also there feeding on peanuts. This is the first time I’ve seen a juvenile Downy Woodpecker at Maplewood this year. I wonder if it is the offspring of a resident pair? This seems likely as young birds will remain within their parent’s territory for several weeks and adults are known to drive young other than their own form their territory (Lawrence 1967). Also present near the entrance were several Yellow-rumped Warblers (all in first winter plumage), Ruby-crowned Kinglets, juvenile Cedar Waxwings and American Robins, as well as a Red-breasted Sapsucker.

I didn’t have enough time to walk the paths on the western side of the property so instead I made my way to the mudflats. Northern Pintail, American Widgeon, Mallard, and Canada Goose were all accounted for.


Lawrence, L. de K. 1967. A comparative life-history study of four species of woodpeckers. Ornithol. Monogr. 5: 1–156.

Maplewood: September 19th 2009

I was at Maplewood Conservation area for about two hours during the evening and just like last weekend there wasn’t much happening.

The best bird of the day was a group of four Yellow-rumped Warblers; all in first winter plumage. They were busy gleaning insects off of the branches and leaves of several trees near the shoreline approximately 25m west along the path once you’re across the bridge. I am particularly pleased with this sighting as I was able to identify them from their call (“a dry, husky chwit with slightly rising inflection” according to Sibley’s) before they came closer to the path and visual observation could be made. This has personally reaffirmed my commitment towards studying bird songs (I use the “Stokes Filed Guide to Bird Songs-Western Region” as well as Cornell’s “Bird’s of North America”) in addition to reviewing the field guide. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get any pictures as the birds could not sit still long enough for me to line up my camera with my binoculars.

Nearby where I sighted the warblers this deer, a common occurrence at Maplewood, was busy grazing close to the waterline:

It was high tide when I checked out the mudflats and once again there was a group of American Widgeon, Northern Pintail, and some Mallard out on the water. Most appeared to be resting and a few were preening.

An Osprey was also present on one of the pylons busy eating a fish.

All in all it was a pleasant evening.