On my recent walks around a local public park pond, I have noticed a group of mallards resting on their southern migration. The mallard males and females look much more alike than during their spring migration (when the males have those vibrant green heads), creating much more of a unified flock. With one exception: a lone American wigeon, Anas americana has joined the bunch, apparently for the duration of their stay in Laramie.
Is he waiting for other wigeons to arrive? Did he lose his family and join another friendly group? Is he unaware that he is not actually a mallard? Does he fancy the mallard ladies? Wikipedia states that “An American Wigeon × Mallard hybrid has a been recorded.”
He must notice that his bill is a different color and that he’s not quite as big. Is he a lonely duck? I feel bad for the solo wigeon, but perhaps I shouldn’t. According to the Animal Diversity Web: “They do not form large congregations except during migration or where there is a large source of food. They will join small flocks of gadwalls, mallards, American coots and various diving ducks occasionally during fall migration.” So maybe this guy just isn’t much of a joiner.
Back in the spring, a group of wigeons migrated through this same pond together. What happened to all of his buddies? Mallards were around then, too, but just as part of a larger crowd. The wigeon males were sporting their nifty breeding feathers.
Sdakotabirds.com says “they sometimes harass other duck species and steal their food.” Aha. Perhaps this is a savvy rather than a sad duck after all. He sure was savvy enough to avoid coming within good photograph range.
Wigeons are cool dabbling ducks, regardless of their numbers. They can be known as ‘baldpates’, because of the males’ white heads in the breeding plumage. And their names are like pigeons, but with a W. Which should count for something.