Sunday, August 16, 2015

Why We Still Have An American Wigeon

[This is the male American Wigeon that has been summering in the South Cape May Meadows, NJ this year, an unusual occurrence for this species which breeds to the north and west, no closer than the Great Lakes or northern New England. We can see in this photo that he has molted and replaced all his primaries and primary coverts on the right wing, which is to be expected. North American ducks have a synchronous summer pre-basic molt of all their flight feathers, and go flightless for a time. Somehow, he's already managed to fray some of the middle primaries. We can also assess this bird's age as a SY, i.e. second year, i.e. he was hatched last summer, based on the details of the tips of his greater coverts; check your Pyle Guide for details. Saturday, August 15 2015. Click to enlarge.]

[Oi, look at the left wing.  It's, um, all messed up.  Injured - by a predator, a collision with something, perhaps a load of steel shot.  There is no sign of molt on the left wing flight feathers, which suggests this bird will never replace these feathers, will remain unable to fly, and will be with us in Cape May until it perishes - which, if we get a winter when everything freezes over, it will. Bummer. In this photo you can note the bright white axillars and underwing coverts, which separate American Wigeon from Eurasian Wigeon, which has gray feathers in those tracts.]

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