Friday, 28 October 2016

Yank Wigeon on the Exe

A check of the west cliffs Budleigh this morning resulted in 2 new Firecrests, a few Chiffchaff, Redpoll and groups of Chaffinch overhead. I then headed over to the mouth of the Exe Estuary to look for the American Wigeon which good friend Matt Knott found a couple of days ago. I arrived at the Imperial to see a fairly large flock of Wigeon and scanned through a few times and was just about to give up when I picked up the bird in the flock. I was immediately struck by the purplish tinge to the breast and flanks as well as the fairy obvious pale crown and dark green mask patch behind the eye, so clearly a male bird. However, it was amazing how different the bird looked in comparison to the photos that Matt took when he first found the bird HERE
Matt's photos show the bird in the water and so the purplish breast and flank are lost in the water and the contrasting head pattern seems far less obvious. Therefore possibly even suggesting a well-marked female.

Anyway, I called Matt straight away and it was good to watch the bird with the original finder! We discussed the difficulties of ageing the bird and it seems that Matt's first impression was correct. Clearly a male and possibly a 1st year bird rather than an adult male coming out of eclipse. Perhaps the most useful photo for ageing below, is the one showing the upperwing. Various literature suggests that 1st year birds have greyish centres to the otherwise white median coverts therefore making the white wing panel less obvious than on an adult which should be exclusively white. However, there doesn't appear to be much information on eclipse plumage. Also the photo showing the tail seems to show very pointed tail feathers, maybe also indicative of a younger bird? 
I am no expert, so comments welcome!

All interesting stuff and great to see the bird with Matt and even better to have tea and cake at his house to celebrate after! Thanks Matt for another great find! 

Species, Age and Sex Identification of Ducks Using Wing Plumage
Ageing of American and Eurasian Wigeon
A review of the status and identification of American Wigeon in Britain & Ireland

Click on the photos to see larger view

Male American Wigeon, Exe Estuary 28th October - Video Grab

Male American Wigeon, Exe Estuary 28th October - Video Grab

Male American Wigeon (far left bird) with Eurasian Wigeon flock

Male American Wigeon (far left bird) with Eurasian Wigeon flock

Male American Wigeon (middle of flock) showing some grey areas to median coverts and spiky tail feathers

Though out of focus, the pure white axiliaries of the bird can clearly be seen in the overcast conditions


  1. Thanks for letting me have the first squint through your scope Chris. Otherwise I'd have dipped out big time. Much appreciated! Nick

  2. No problem at all Nick and good to see you albeit briefly! Hopefully see you for more of a chat next time...