Connecticut Audubon Bird Finder for November 27, 2013: Eurasian Wigeon

Eurasian&AmericanWigeonsEurasian Wigeon
Anas penelope

Where to find it: Eurasian Wigeons (the bird to the left with the rust-colored head; the bird to the right of it is an American Wigeon) have been visiting Milford in recent weeks, at the Mondo Ponds Nature Preserve and Education Center and Jonathan Law High School pond. Eurasian Wigeons can occur anywhere in Connecticut but are often found with concentrations of American Wigeon and Gadwall. Like any migratory waterfowl, they can depart without notice but often Eurasian Wigeons settle in for a while, as long as there is open water and they have a steady food source. The parking lot at Mondo Ponds is on Naugatuck Avenue; the high school is on Lansdale Avenue. Some winters, a male Eurasian Wigeon or two spend time in the mouth of the Housatonic River, often commuting between the Stratford Point and Short Beach area of Stratford, and the Wheeler Marsh and sandbars at Milford Point.

How to find it: At Mondo, the birds have been frequenting the small pond west of the main lake, but check the main lake as well. From the main trail on the north side of the main lake, walk west and take the trail to the right that circles the west lake. The pond at Jonathan Law is down a paved path from the north side of the school parking lot.

What it looks like: Adult male Eurasian Wigeons are slightly smaller than a Mallard, and have a rust head with a buffy central crown stripes and gray flanks (you can see the rust-colored head in the photo above, which Frank Mantlik took). American Wigeons have the opposite pattern; a gray head with a green eye stripe, white central crown stripe, and rusty flanks (the bird on the right in the photo is an American Wigeon). A young male wigeon that has been at Mondo Ponds has a rusty head but not much of a central crown stripe. Its flanks are mostly red anteriorly, but it is molting in gray feathers on the rear (posteriorly) flanks.

What if the bird isn’t there? Mondo Ponds attracts a wide variety of land and water birds year round. The islands in the main lake are used as roost sites for Greater Yellowlegs, and Dowitchers in early fall. Spotted Sandpiper breeds here in summer. Both lakes hold waterfowl from fall through winter, including Gadwall, American Wigeon, teal, Wood Ducks, and Ring-necked Ducks, and are good places to see American Coot and Pied-billed Grebes in autumn. Always check the lake shores for egrets and herons, especially Green Heron, which breeds here, and Great Blue Herons, which are migrants. In spring and fall, migrant land birds often concentrate on the peninsula at the north end of the lake from below the north parking lot, and the west end of the park (west side of the west lake) is often best for warblers, vireos and other migrants.

Conservation status: The Eurasian Wigeon is common on its European and Asian territory. It’s a rare but regular visitor to our area.

This week’s Connecticut Audubon Bird Finder was contributed by Frank Gallo, director of Connecticut Audubon Society’s Milford Point Coastal Center.

Photo courtesy of Frank Mantlik

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