American Wigeon Drake
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Every autumn I look forward to the arrival of migratory ducks. It may sound surprising, considering our desert environment, but Tucson is a winter home to at least a dozen species of ducks. They show up wherever there are bodies of water, mostly in public parks and at Sweetwater Wetlands. In a few places the population density can be pretty impressive once all of the migrants have arrived.
Migrants are just beginning to arrive here. I’ve been driving around to several sites where one usually can see these birds and, so far, I’ve seen only a handful. That will change quickly, I think, and in the next couple of weeks big flocks of seasonal migrants should show up.
Yesterday, I photographed an American Wigeon drake in a local public park. Wigeons are among my favorite species of migratory ducks. I can’t think of a better word to describe them than “cute.” They’re tubby little ducks, seemingly as wide as they are long. They don’t quack. Rather, they emit a squeaking noise that sounds exactly like what you’d hear when you squeeze one of those plush toys you buy for your puppy.
Both the males and females of this species are beautiful. The males, like this one, have iridescent green stripes on their heads that resemble the Nike logo. Females wear plumage that comes in a multitude of shades of brown. Both males and females have small blue-gray beaks.
This Wigeon, by the way, is rather unusual looking. Normally, a male’s head would have a white stripe above the iridescent green “Nike logo.” The area below the logo would be a mottled gray and white. I’d never seen a male Wigeon with a golden face until I photographed this individual a couple of days ago. None of his companions look like this.
Wigeons are “dabbling ducks,” meaning that they don’t dive beneath the surface to feed. At the local park where I photographed this individual I saw Wigeons grazing on the grass, like a herd of tiny cattle.
For the next few months ducks will be a regular part of my rotation on this blog. It is a seasonal thing, of course, but to be honest, I love photographing ducks every bit as much as I love photographing wasps, spiders, and rattlesnakes. I have already accumulated a series of nice photographs of Wigeons, including more photographs of this “golden” drake, some images of more typical looking males, and some images of a female, that I’ll display sometime very soon. Other species will follow as they arrive and I locate them.
Image made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400 mm f4-5.6 zoom+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting, ISO 800, f7.1 @ 1/200.