Monday, 13 April 2015

B.O.T.D. American Wigeon

American Wigeon (Anas americana)

What some birds won't go through for a taste of wild celery. Take the American wigeon, a duck with diving limitations that would seem to rule out  its enjoyment of a plant that grows deep in the water. But the wigeon has a simple solution: let other ducks get the celery, then grab some of it. The unwitting  donors are redheads, scaups, and canvasbacks - all diving birds adept at rooting up celery from the bottom. Tailoring its migration routes and wintering locations to theirs, the crafty wigeon shadows them like pilot fish trailing a shark.

As a flock of redheads feeds over a celery bed, a redhead dives - and a nearby wigeon springs into action. Anticipating where its victim will surface, the wigeon swims over and waits. When the redhead pops up with a bill-full of celery stems, the opportunist brazenly snatches a strand.

Is the redhead outraged? Does it drive the wigeon away? On the contrary, diving dicks put upon by wigeons accept their role as providers with evident tolerance. Perhaps they can sense that wigeons are quick to sense trouble and warn them of danger. More restless than any other ducks, wigeons impart their alarm to the divers around them, leaping from the water in a flurry of alarm quacks and rattling wings. Surely insurance like that is worth a celery stalk or two.

Reader's Digest: Book of North American Birds