Wood Ducks! Wood Ducks! Wood Ducks!
Okay, that’s not exactly how the day started yesterday morning…it sounded more akin to me whining about birding in the rain. I signed up for one of Audubon’s free birding outings, a chance to learn more about local wintering waterfowl at Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens. I thought surely they would cancel due to the 2-3″ of rain predicted, but it was a rain or shine event, so I pulled my gear on and my butt out of the house and I’m glad I did!
The outing was led by Ron Escano, a birder of 40 years – he knows his stuff! He provided bird ID handouts, specifically on how to identify waterfowl using identification markers other than color field marks. This is important in low-lighted, cloudy, or rainy areas – basically anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. I’ll follow-up with a more detailed identification post, but for now, some highlights.
The Key Characters Used to Identify Waterfowl are:
- Relative Size
- Profile and Shape
- Black and White Field Marks
- Color Field Marks
Feeding behavior is extremely helpful for waterfowl identification.
Ducks can be broken into two groups depending on how they feed:
Dabblers– can walk on land, can launch off the water into flight without a long take off, and they feed with their rear-ends tipped up in the water. Examples: Mallard, Gadwall, Teal, Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, and Wood Duck.
Divers– cannot walk on land, need a long take-off to fly from water, and they feed by diving under water. Examples: Scaups, Bufflehead, Ring-necked Duck, Redhead, Canvasback, Goldeneyes, Harlequin Duck, Ruddy Duck, and all other “sea” ducks.
Just observing a waterbird’s feeding behavior can quickly eliminate half of the species for identification. Easy peasy, right?
The park was beautiful. I can only imagine what it looks like in the spring with the flowers blooming. The birds also seem at ease here, providing a wonderful opportunity to see them up-close. I look forward to a return trip!
Oh and of course I saw Wood Ducks! Wood Ducks! Wood Ducks!
Species to Add to My List: 4
Thanks for following!