Red-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Mergansers on the Fox River in Waukesha and at the mouth of the Milwaukee River on the Milwaukee Lakefront. Other species present were Greater Scaups and the Common Goldeneyes. The ice was starting to break up well and move around inside the breakwall with temps in the low 50’s, warmest it has been since approximately November 1st 2013. The ducks look gorgeous this time of year! Images were taken on March 10, 2014.

Red-breasted Merganser - Male

Red-breasted Merganser – Male

Red-breasted Merganser

Binomial name: Mergus serrator

Category: Duck, Geese, and Swans

Size: 23” long, 30” wing span

Weight: M 1.56 lbs., F 1.52 lbs.

Habitat:  Lakes and ponds surrounded by woodlands also tundra ponds.

Diet: The Red-breasted Merganser dives for its main diet fish, but also eats, insects, crustaceans and tadpoles.

Nesting:  Nesting sites are depressions in the ground. They can be located under a large rock, within dense shrub, under a pile of driftwood near water. Nests usually contain 5-11 olive colored eggs, they leave the nest in 1 or 2 days.

Cool facts: The breeding region for the Red-breasted Merganser is farther north than any other American merganser.

Red-breasted Merganser - Male

Red-breasted Merganser – Male

Red-breasted Merganser Stretching - Male

Red-breasted Merganser stretching – Male

Red-breasted Merganser Stretching - Male

Red-breasted Merganser stretching – Male

Red-breasted Merganser Shaking Off - Male

Red-breasted Merganser shaking off – Male

Red-breasted Merganser Preening - Male

Red-breasted Merganser preening – Male

Red-breasted Merganser Preening - Male

Red-breasted Merganser preening – Male

Red-breasted Merganser - Male

Red-breasted Merganser – Male

Red-breasted Merganser Preening - Male

Red-breasted Merganser preening – Male

Red-breasted Merganser Preening - Male

Red-breasted Merganser preening – Male

Red-breasted Merganser a pair! - Males

Red-breasted Merganser a pair, relax mode – Males

Red-breasted Merganser stretching in water - Male

Red-breasted Merganser stretching in water – Male

Red-breasted Merganser - female

Red-breasted Merganser – Female

Red-breasted Merganser - Female

Red-breasted Merganser – Female

Lesser Scaup - Male

Greater Scaup – Male

Lesser Scaup - Male

Greater Scaup – Male

Lesser Scaup - Female

Greater Scaup – Female

Lesser Scaup - Female

Greater Scaup – Female

Lesser Scaup stretching - Male

Greater Scaup stretching – Male

Common Goldeneye - Male, 1st winter

Common Goldeneye – Male, 1st winter

Common Goldeneye - Male, 1st winter

Common Goldeneye – Male, 1st winter

Greater Scaup

The mouth of the Milwaukee River on the Milwaukee Lakefront was pretty iced up along with the harbor. The little water that was open held a few Greater Scaups with nice views. They did some diving for mussels while I was there. Some of the other species present that day were 3 Red-throated Loons, White-winged Scoters, Common Goldeneyes and Red-breasted Mergansers. Mostly a sun day but very cold. Photographs taken on February 23, 2014.

Greater Scaup - Male - Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront, February 2, 2014

Greater Scaup – Male – Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup

Binomial name: Aythya marila

Category: Duck, Geese, and Swans

Size: 18” long, 28” wing span

Weight: 2.3 lb.

Habitat:  Typically found along the seacoasts on large lakes, ponds and sometimes bays. Breeding in the summer months in Alaska, northern Canada, Siberia and far northern areas of Europe on the tundra and in the boreal forest regions. This ducks spends its winter months mainly along Pacific, Gulf, and Atlantic coasts, and also in Eurasia.

Diet: Dive for aquatic plants and parts such as seeds, leaves, stems, tubers and roots. Some of these plants are muskgrass, wild celery, pondweeds and sedges. Their diet also includes aquatic insects, clams, snails, mussels, and other crustaceans.

Nesting:  A nest is nothing more than a bowl shaped scrape in the ground typically lined with down and grasses. It is placed in taller grass areas not prone to flooding. An average of 9 olive-brown or pale greenish colored eggs are laid, and the female uses distracting displays to keep away artic foxes, ravens, red-tailed hawks, raccoons, owls and various gull species. Young leave the nest after incubation of 24-28 days as soon as they are dry after hatching. At that time female takes them to food immediately as they can swim and they feed themselves.

Cool Facts: Similar to the Lesser Scaup, accurate counts of this bird are not possible and both species are counted and then numbers adjusted.  Dives for its food, but eats it on the surface. To identify the Greater from the Lesser Scaups, sometimes field guides are needed as they are so similar. The black nail on the end of the bill is one of the easiest tips for ID of the Lesser as it is very narrow. On the Greater the black nail on the tip of the bill is wider. Recently a friend of mine observed a Snowy Owl capturing, killing and eating a Scaup species on Lake Michigan.

Greater Scaup - Female - Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup – Female – Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup - Male  -  Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup – Male – Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup - Female walking on ice - Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup – Female walking on ice – Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup - Female walking on ice - Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup – Female walking on ice – Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup - Female  -  Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup – Female – Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup - Male  -  Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Greater Scaup – Male – Milwaukee River Mouth / Lake Michigan Lakefront

Common Goldeneye

Common Goldeneye Ducks on the Fox River, Waukesha Wisconsin. Photographs were taken on March 5, 2014

Common Goldeneye - Male

Common Goldeneye – Male

Common Goldeneye

Binomial name: Buecephala clangula

Category: Duck, Geese, and Swans

Size: 16–20” long, 30.3–32.7” wing span

Weight: M 2.3 lbs., F 1.7 lbs.

Habitat:  Lakes, ponds and rivers near forest lands.

Diet: The Common Goldeneye dives underwater for aquatic invertebrates and insects, vegetation and small fish.

Nesting:  Nesting sites are large cavities in trees, they will also use nest boxes. Nesting sites are usually near lakes, rivers or ponds, but can be located up to one mile from water. The nest is lined with feathers from the female. 5-16 eggs in the nest cavity, young leave within two days after hatching.

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Common Goldeneye – Male

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Common Goldeneye – Female

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Common Goldeneye – Male

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Common Goldeneye – Male

Common Goldeneye - Male, 1st winter

Common Goldeneye – Male, 1st winter

 

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Common Goldeneye – Female

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Common Goldeneye – Male

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Common Goldeneye – Male

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Common Goldeneye – Male

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Common Goldeneye – Male

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Common Goldeneye – Male

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Common Goldeneye – Male

Red-throated Loons Milwaukee River Mouth, Milwaukee Lakefront, February 23, 2014

The area of the mouth of the Milwaukee River on the Milwaukee Lakefront produced 3 Red-throated Loons. Some of the other species present and photographed were White-winged Scoters, Common Goldeneyes, Red-breasted Mergansers, and Greater Scaups.

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Red-throated Loon

Red-throated Loon

Binomial name: Gavia stellata

Category: Loons

Description: Dark gray feathers with a white throat and underparts, small black and white strips on the back of its neck.  In breeding season, the throat turns red, thus the name.  Small bill which fluctuates between black and dark gray.

Size: 21” – 27” long, 36” – 47” wingspan

Weight: 2.2 lbs. – 6.0 lbs.

Habitat: Large lakes, coastal shorelines, inland rivers, and reservoirs.

Diet: Primarily fish, occasionally crustaceans, frogs, and aquatic invertebrates, rarely plants

Nesting: Both parents build the nest out of a mudscrape lined with plant material and some feathers.  The male will stand guard while the female incubates the eggs (2 eggs per clutch).  Both parents feed and raise the young and participate in distraction displays to lure predators away from the nest.  Mating pairs will breed for life.

Notes: Unlike other loon species which must take flight by running on the surface of water, the Red-throated Loon can fly directly from land or water.  It also does not carry its young on its back.

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Red-throated Loon

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Red-throated Loon

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Red-throated Loon

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Red-throated Loon

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Red-throated Loon

White-winged Scoter

White-winged Scoter

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Female Common Goldeneye

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Male Common Goldeneye

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Male Red-breasted Merganser

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Female Red-breasted Merganser

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Male Greater Scaup

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Male Greater Scaup

Whooper Swan

Whooper Swan photographed at the Otsego Marsh in Columbia County, Wisconsin on October 27, 2013.  At this time it is unknown if this bird is a wild bird or an escapee bird.

Whooper Swan

Whooper Swan

Binomial name: Cygnus cygnus

Category: Ducks, Geese, and Swans

Description: White body with a black and yellow bill, more yellow than black.  Black legs and feet.

Size: 55” – 65” long, 81” – 108” wingspan

Weight: 16 lbs. – 31 lbs.

Habitat: Freshwater lakes, shorelines, slow rivers, wetlands, marshes, swamps, and bogs

Natural Range: Breeds in Northern Eurasia and winters primarily in the United Kingdom and Southern Asia.  It is extremely rare to see one in the United States.

Diet: Aquatic plants, leaves, stems, roots, grasses, and sedges.  In winter will also eat grains, acorns, and vegetables such as turnips or potatoes.

Nesting: Both parents build the nest out of grasses, leaves, and other plants pressed into a mud flat or reed beds.  The male will stand guard while the female incubates the eggs (4 -7 eggs per clutch).  Mating pairs will breed for life, and the same nest may be used repeatedly over several years with repairs being made as necessary.  Sometimes offspring from previous years will rejoin their parents.

Notes: Although large in size, this bird has comparatively small legs.  Consequently, it spends most of its time swimming and scouring bodies of water for food instead of walking on land.  It is also the national bird of Finland.  The yellow markings on each swan’s bill are unique and can identify a particular bird in much the same way humans may be identified by fingerprints.

Whooper Swan

Whooper Swan

Whooper Swan

Whooper Swan

Whooper Swan

Whooper Swan

Whooper Swan

Whooper Swan

Whooper Swan

Whooper Swan

To see the gallery of images, please click here.

Horicon Marsh and Hustisford August 20, 2013

Photographs taken at Horicon Marsh and Hustisford on August 20, 2013.

Marsh Wren

Marsh Wren

Least Sandpiper

Least Sandpiper

Blue-winged Teal Family

Blue-winged Teal Family

Stilt Sandpipers

Stilt Sandpipers

Lesser Yellowlegs, Hustisford

Lesser Yellowlegs, Hustisford

Pectoral Sandpiper, Hustisford

Pectoral Sandpiper, Hustisford

Least Sandpipers, Hustisford

Least Sandpipers, Hustisford

Least Sandpiper, Hustisford

Least Sandpiper, Hustisford

Yellow Headed Blackbird

Yellow-headed Blackbird

Pectoral Sandpipers, Hustisford

Pectoral Sandpipers, Hustisford

To view the full gallery of images, please click here.

Wood Ducks in Waukesha County on September 19, 2012

I came across a small pond in northwest Waukesha County that had about a dozen Wood Ducks, male and female. Images were taken on September 19, 2012.

Wood Ducks, male right, female left

Wood Ducks, female right, male left

Wood Duck

Binomial name: Aix sponsa

Category: Ducks, Geese, and Swans

Size: 18.5” long, 30” wing span

Weight: 1.3 lb

Wood Duck, male, just relaxing!

Wood Duck, male, just relaxing!

Wood Duck, male

Wood Duck, male

Wood Duck, male

Wood Duck, male

Wood Ducks, male right, female left

Wood Ducks, male right, female left

Wood Ducks, female

Wood Ducks, female

Wood Ducks, male right front, female left back

Wood Ducks, male right front, female left back

Wood Duck, female preening

Wood Duck, female preening

Wood Duck, male

Wood Duck, male

Wood Ducks, male left, female right

Wood Ducks, male left, female right

Wood Duck, female

Wood Duck, female

Barrow’s Goldeneye at North Point in Sheboygan Wisconsin on January 7, 2011

Barrow’s Goldeneye, male, at North Point in Sheboygan Wisconsin on January 7, 2011. This duck remained far from shore during it’s short visit in Sheboygan. A very rare visitor to the state of Wisconsin. Only distant images could be taken. Some images show both male Barrow’s Goldeneye and Common Goldeneye together.

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Barrow’s Goldeneye

Binomial name: Bucephala islanddica

Category: Duck, Geese, and Swans

Size: 18” long, 28” wing span

Weight: 2.1 lb.

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Barrow’s Goldeneye, male left – Common Goldeneye, male center – Common Goldeneye, female left

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Barrow’s Goldeneye, male far right – Common Goldeneye, male center left with Common Goldeneye females

Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Duck, nonbreeding male photographed at North Point in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on January 5, 2012.

Harlequin Duck

Binomial name: Histrionicus histrionicus

Category: Ducks, Geese, and Swans

Description: Slate blue (male) or grayish brown (female) body with white spots or streaks on head, back, and wings.  Male also has rust-colored patches on sides.

Size: 13″ – 21.3″ long, 22″ – 26″wingspan

Weight: 17.6 oz. – 25.6 oz.

Habitat: Rocky shores and coastlines in mountains or forests.

Diet: Small insects, spiders, fish, and crustaceans.

Nesting: The female provides all parental care, building a nest in a protected space on the ground, often near water.  The female will lay 3 – 9 eggs at a time, laying eggs once per summer.   Although the male does not help rear the young, the pair will likely mate for life.

Notes: Harlequin ducks are extremely buoyant due to their tightly packed feathers.  These feathers also insulate them from chilly water while they swim and dive.

Cinnamon Teal at the Vernon Marsh in Waukesha County Wisconsin on May 2, 2012

(FYI, An old bird sighting I added to my blog since a Cinnamon Teal has been in the birding news) On a birding run this morning I was rewarded with a Cinnamon Teal, male. It was on the southwest corner of the figure 8 ponds on the western side of the marsh. A very rare bird for the state as the normal range for this bird are western states. The bird moved in and out of cattails sometimes following Blue-winged Teals and was not seen often. I was fortunate enough to get some distant shots. A birder had reported this bird earlier. Images were taken May 5, 2012.

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Cinnamon Teal, male following Blue-winged Teals, male front, female in the middle

Cinnamon Teal

Binomial name: Anas cyanoptera

Category: Ducks, Geese, and Swans

Size: 16” long, 22” wing span

Weight: 14 oz

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Cinnamon Teal, male following Blue-winged Teal, female

Cinnamon Teal, male

Cinnamon Teal, male

Cinnamon Teal, male following Blue-winged

Cinnamon Teal, male following Blue-winged Teal, male