Monday, March 7, 2016

Fancy Ducks

[Female Canvasback repositions on the third (east-most) plover pond at Cape May Point State Park/South Cape May Meadows, NJ on Sunday, March 6, 2016. Click to enlarge. Canvasback is a scarce bird in Cape May.]

We're nearing the peak of northbound duck migration, both in term of abundance and diversity. eBird reveals I've seen 22 duck species in the last three days, having birded Mannington Marsh in Salem County, (arguably the best spring dabbling duck site in the state) with the NJ Young Birders Club, Cape May Point State Park, and Reed's Beach, all in southern NJ.

Among the ducks at Mannington was a season-first-for-me Blue-winged Teal. Mention "neotropical migrant" and most birders immediately think of songbirds, but many Blue-winged Teal fly south to winter in the New World Tropics.

Quite a few ducks and other birds have a migration that is as much east-west as it is north-south. Consider the Canvasback, for example:

[Canvasback range map, from Birds of North America Online.]

A large percentage of North American ducks derive from the prairie pothole region, a complex of wetland and upland habitats that has been called the "duck factory," with good cause. Massive habitat protection efforts by groups like Ducks Unlimited and agencies like the USFWS have truly helped save these wetlands, and the waterfowl and many other species that need them.

[Now here's a riddle: where do the Eurasian Wigeon we see every year come from? Iceland? Or are they breeding somewhere in North America? This male (right, with American Wigeon) was on Lighthouse Pond at Cape May Point State Park on Sunday, March 6, 2016.]

[Worldwide range map of Eurasian Wigeon.]

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