American Wigeons are back in the Salish Sea. These are some of my favorite ducks. They seem, well, a proper well-mannered and friendly bird. A duck I’d like to know personally. In summer, they nest in the far northern marshes on the edge of the Arctic Sea where they raise a family. Short summers mean early migration south before the early winter begins, and the males come first, the females and young a bit later. In the Salish Sea, fall migration peaks from mid-October to early December, when large flocks congregate in near-shore rafts or marina lawns. Being mostly aquatic plant-eaters, wigeons have a bill that is more goose-like than the bill of a dabbling duck – which helps them graze on land (lawns).
There are two types of duck-design: dabbling and diving. Dabbling ducks are built to upend themselves in shallow water to get at aquatic shoots and other food. Their legs are positioned towards the body’s center to allow tipping the head downwards underwater. These guys don’t go totally underwater, but they also can’t feed in deep water. Diving ducks such as mergansers and scoters do just the opposite, but their equipment varies slightly. They sport legs in the back to allow underwater propulsion and slender bills to grab a meal while in motion. Wigeons are dabblers but can also feed standing on dry land. This winter, keep an eye out around the marina for wigeons and an ear tuned for the soft jabbering whistles as the groups talks about the weather.
Larry Eifert paints and writes about the Pacific Northwest from Port Townsend. His large-scale murals can be seen in many national parks across America.