Widgeon flying

American widgeon (Mareca americana) or baldpate species.



By the analysis of Jay Miles of Wells, Maine, the featured duck in the last two posts is an American widgeon (Marcea americana) or baldpate species.  Several months ago I posted “Gray Sky with Duck,” concerning nine ducks I scared from our pond when I drove down the pasture road after feeding the horses and scattering corn in the grove for deer.  After reading my post, Jay commented that he would help in identification of ducks.  I looked at his Kicking Bull Gallery website and he knows ducks!  He sculpts ducks, he sells vintage and antique duck decoys.  He has five lists (each list is several pages) of duck decoys on his website of  “Antique old vintage decoys, hunting decoys used in old times past to hunt ducks in the marshes and the sea.”  Jay has his ducks in a row.


Kicking Bull Gallery


I wrote Jay an e-mail several days ago asking for his opinion since I was wallowing around in factoring duck morphology.  I may know cacti and sagebrush, but I don’t know ducks.  Jay responded this morning by e-mail.  By this time next year, I will be a bit more versed in duck identification.

* * *

Roger Tory Peterson writes in A Field Guide to Western Birds that the female American widgeon voices qua-ack.  I noted this two-part voice pattern many times before as I stood out of sight near the pond’s embankment.  I often thought that the duck had been bumped into by other browsers, eliciting a two-part sound of frustration.  No, that wasn’t the case despite my attempt at personification.  The widgeon winters from southern Alaska to Central America.  Its habitat is in fresh marshes, irrigated land, ponds, lakes and bays.  Some widgeons, we now know, winter or pass by north Erath County, Texas, and spend time on the Flying Hat pond.

An interesting nexus emerged in my previous posts asking for assistance in identification.  Bill of Wild Ramblings opined, so did Laura of A Number of Things, Caralee of Built by Hand Strawbale Housing and Jay Miles of Kicking Bull Gallery.  Bill hails from Massachusetts, Jay is from Maine, Laura of London and Caralee of Utah.  The five of us that took an interest in the duck are attuned to nature.  Caralee added her observations about the difficulty of typing birds in flight — she is working on typing hawks that swoop down upon her.  I opened Peterson to pages about duck profiles in flight, something I had never done before.  Bill added the difficulty in typing waterfowl and steered me away from it being a Canvasback because of the beak feature.  Laura apologized for not identifying, but pointed out that the title of the post, “Typing duck in flight,” made her think of a duck carrying a typewriter while in flight!  I find it fascinating that a digital photo of duck taking flight from a Texas pond could provoke a response from Utah to New England to London.  We are all curious about birds, and, moreover, the infinite wildness of the natural world.



The Kicking Bull Gallery logo is from Jay Miles website.

Photograph of American widgeon in flight is J. Matthews, March 2011, Mingus, Texas.

Illustrations are from Roger Tory Peterson, A Field Guide to Western Birds, second edition, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1969.

American widgeon from Roger Tory Peterson.


Filed under American Widgeon, Ducks

14 responses to “Widgeon flying

  1. Ducks in flight, along with hawks and many songbirds can be very hard to identify. I can usually id most of our wintering ducks when they are on the water but in the sky is a whole different thing. Another frustrating thing can be identifying females as many breeds tend to look very much alike. There are a few exceptions. It’s a slow process but I’m learning as I am sure you will to. To me it’s just another good excuse to spend time out side taking in the sights and sounds. So glad the mystery got solved and thank you to Jay for the answer. We all learned a little something.

  2. I have missed coming by here and I found your writing today very interesting about the ducks. It seems your research has helped you a lot and you will enjoy them more the next time around.

    Hope you are having a great weekend,


    • Hi Maggie! I come over to your blog and always enjoy it. Hopefully on the ducks, I’ll be able to identify them better, thanks to my friends. Hope your weekend is going well.

  3. That’s a pretty little duck. I see that some do spend their summer in my area and now I shall have to watch for them. A blind would be a good idea. I was thinking about that this evening while trying to sneak up on a pair of Herons, only to find out that they are much better at seeing me sneaking up on them than I am doing the sneaking.

    • Yes, it is pretty. And its “qua-ack” is especially quaint. I’ll work on the blind. Laughing at your sneaking. Oh, by the way, good shot of the geese on your blog, Montucky.

  4. Thank goodness for expert opinion. I completely overlooked this. Must have flipped right by this species in Peterson’s Field Guide to Birds several times. It’s easy now that I know the answer.

    By the way, how is the knee?

    • I had e-mailed Jay when I published the first post on duck and thought it a Canvasback. I’m learning. I didn’t even stop at the American widgeon in my Peterson’s.

      Knee is improving. Last few days it has comeback well, but I have to watch stepping down and I don’t turn on the left leg anymore. Funny thing is that I now realize how much I favored the left leg in lifting and turning. I’m at the point about the “cane” that I’m going to throw it away — or give it away since it represents something I want no part of. When I need assistance that way, I’ll get my ice axe or use Brenda’s walking stick. Course, I won’t take the ice axe to class if I am still lecturing. I’ve climbed several peaks in New Mexico with the axe. Brenda and I will be looking for gradual ascents from here on in. There’s a number of peaks that can be taken by the trail.

  5. Erin R

    You are very fortunate to have ducks at your place, Jack. All we have are the wild turkeys and seasonal cranes. I had to stop this morning to let about 25 turkeys cross the road! So glad to hear the knee is improving. That’s the kind of attitude that keeps a person young!

    • I think so too, Erin. I’ll trade a crane for a duck since all the cranes I see are up in the sky. So many turkeys! You are lucky. Yes, the knee is improving and I want to keep my energy up. Congrats on your Texas Tech acceptance.

  6. With all due respect to Jay the Duck Man, I have to disagree. Go back to the first photo you posted–this bird clearly has yellow legs. The American Wigeon does not. I am putting my money once and for all on the Gadwall. What fun!

    • I want to spend time on the Gadwall-Widgeon — a lot of time. Today, darn it, I am loaded down with Blackboard online teaching and I cannot open Peterson’s guide or I’ll never get anything done! I want to do fieldwork more than online teaching, but at the moment online teaching pays the bills. To the pond I would like to go and away from this desk. The Gadwall-Widgeon awaits me. Two very fine artists, you and Jay, have stimulated me to refine my observations.

      • Field observations are notoriously difficult and I rarely make a positive ID without a photo–and even then some times I can’t be sure. The best thing to do is to look at the obvious and eliminate what doesn’t fit. In this case I think the most unmistakable feature of your bird is the yellow legs. Because of the lighting and the poor image quality (no fault of yours, the subject was moving) some of the other identifying marks are less reliable. So narrow your search by starting with ducks with yellow legs and see where that takes you.

      • I shall start with yellow legs and see where it takes me. I’ve already begun to see things in the Peterson that I had not seen before. Thanks, Marie. My field photos are nearly always taken quickly. I don’t have the long telephoto lens. The 200 mm I have does well, but wildlife is here, then there, then gone! I’ve seen your work and I envy it in a good way. Really great work!

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