The patch of yellow at the base of the bill is a helpful field mark to identity the Tundra Swan. Tundra Swans nest in the arctic and stop at the Horicon Marsh during migration. They are North America’s most numerous swan species. Trumpeter Swans, on the other hand, nest at the Horicon Marsh during the summer. They lack the yellow patch at the base of the bill.
The slope of the head helps to distinguish the Canvasback from the commonly found Redhead. Male Canvasbacks have red eyes and black beaks. Male Redheads have a rounded head, yellow eyes, and a gray beak with a black tip. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “The species name of the Canvasback, Aythya valisineria, comes from Vallisneria americana, or wild celery, whose winter buds and rhizomes are its preferred food during the nonbreeding period.”
The Green-winged Teal is not likely to be confused with another species of duck. They are one of the tiniest ducks. The striking green and chestnut color on the head and neck of the male sets it apart. They are typically found at the Horicon Marsh during the summer and during migration.
There were Hooded Mergansers, Northern Pintails, Northern Shovelers, Ruddy Ducks, and a host of other waterfowl swimming in the water along Highway 49 today. It is a great time to visit the Horicon Marsh and see the variety of species migrating.
A flock of eight Tundra Swans relaxes Sunday afternoon at the Horicon Marsh. Their eye is distinct from their black bill and they have a yellow area on the lore (base of the bill). These features distinguish them from the Trumpeter Swan.
Ring-necked Ducks stop by for a swim during spring migration. “Ring-necked” seems like a misnomer, but up close, the male has a faint band of chestnut colored feathers around his neck. He reminds me of a groomsman at a wedding who is wearing a tie to match the bridesmaid’s dress. You can see the brown female Ring-necked Duck swimming further back. They dive for dinner that includes underwater plants and invertebrates (snails, worms, dragonfly nymphs). Unlike other diving ducks, they can take off without a running start.
Dike Road is still closed to travel by car. Instead of following the gravel road when it turns left, we hiked to the right on the grassy path. Both flocks were in this area. Spring is arriving at the Horicon Marsh!
A cacophony of sound filled the air along Highway 49 with Canada Geese honking, ducks quacking, and Sandhill Cranes making their unique rolling call. Hundreds of each species spread throughout the water. Each species banded together in its own area and all the species were relatively congenial with one another.
A small flock of Snow Geese joined the symphony. Oh for a 1200 mm lens!
Snow Geese have two color forms. The white form is mostly white with a few black tail feathers. The blue form has a white head and a dark body. The Snow Goose is also called the Blue Goose because of the blue gray feathers on the dark body of the blue form.
A Tundra Swan stayed away from the crowd by swimming alone on the north side of the road. The eye of the Tundra Swan is more distinct from its beak than the Trumpeter Swan’s eye. The Tundra Swan also has a bit of yellow coloring in front of the eye.
The eye catching Northern Pintail was paddling along and dipping its head in the water beside the auto tour.
It was another great afternoon spent at the Horicon Marsh.
This was taken at the small wayside on the east end of Highway 49.