Eurasian Wigeon

American x Eurasian Wigeon

This duck was spotted on April 16 in the area near the VT Fish & Wildlife parking lot on Ft. Cassin Rd. in Ferrisburgh and had been seen again for a few days after. At first thought to be a pure Eurasian Wigeon, sharp birders noticed it had some American Wigeon traits such as a white rather than buffy forehead and salmon pink rather than gray coloration on its sides. The normal range of the Eurasian Wigeon spans from Iceland to eastern Russia but it is not strange for them to stray into North America, or Vermont. In fact they are regular enough in the state that the Vermont Birds Records Committee no longer requires a rare species documentation form when one is found here.

It is fairly common to come across hybrid waterfowl of some sort or another and ducks in the genus Anas are particularly notorious for hybridizing.  A regular example I’m sure many of you have seen are Mallards crossed with domestic ducks near public parks and other lakes and ponds. Around Addison County this year some of the other hybrids that have been sighted include  Black Duck x Mallard, Mallard x Northern Pintail, Common x Barrows Goldeneye, a possible Common Goldeneye x Bufflehead, and a Canada Goose x Snow Goose hybrid you can read about on the North Branch Nature Center website. This Wigeon was a pretty straightforward identification but the identities of some hybrids have to remain complete mysteries. As friend of mine who has kept domestic Geese explained to me, offspring  often show no visual signs of their parentage at all.

– Ron Payne