Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the American wigeon. The American wigeon is a fairly common dabbling duck species for Pagosa Springs, presenting in both deep and shallow water bodies. Oftentimes, you’ll see them hanging out with either ring-necked ducks or American coots. It’s a strategic relationship, as these other birds are avid divers and stir up vegetative matter that wigeons can then easily locate and feed on close to the surface without too much work.
Another common name for the American wigeon is “baldpate.” Rightfully named, the male wigeon have a distinctive white stripe that runs from the base of their bill clear up and over their head. When seen from a distance in the right light, this white forehead is a dead giveaway. Set alongside the striking and substantial iridescent green eyestripe, these drakes are handsome, especially in breeding plumage. Males and females don a short, pale-blue bill complete with a black nail tip. Both sexes have tawny breast feathers and a solid white patch can be seen near the base of the tail feathers on males. Females have substantial mottling in their wing feathers and a noticeable dark smudge around their eyes.
Keep an eye out for this gregarious duck species and lend an ear to the male whistles and female grunts that give them away when nearing an open body of water.