Among the more well-known natural phenomena on Earth is the migration of many species of birds from summer feeding and breeding grounds to wintering areas and back again. Birds have been following these migration patterns for millions of years, yet to this day humans still do not completely understand how they are able to navigate these routes, some of which extend from the Arctic to the Antarctic.
Among the features of these migrations that are well known are the regularity of the timing, and the pathways followed by various species. In general, populations of various species follow more or less the same pathway from year to year. In North America, these pathways are divided into four major north-south bands known as the Atlantic, Mississippi, Central, and Pacific Flyways. Being a California native, the Pacific Flyway is most familiar to me. Extending beyond North America, the Pacific Flyway stretches from Alaska to Patagonia at the tip of South America.
A typical traveler on the Pacific Flyway is the American wigeon (Anas americana) as shown in today’s photo. This duck species breeds primarily in the boreal forest and subarctic river deltas of Canada and Alaska. While found in all four North American flyways, they are most numerous in the Pacific Flyway. Their primary wintering areas include Puget Sound and the Central Valley of California, but some populations migrate to Central America and northwestern South America.
This female American wigeon was photographed on Newport Back Bay in southern California in early January 2014. I wonder if this was just a rest stop, or the end of her migration south for the winter.
This photo was taken with a Canon EF 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM lens zoomed to 400 mm with a Canon 2x doubler for an effective focal length of 800 mm on a Canon EOS 5D Mk. III. The exposure was set to 1/500 sec at f/11 and ISO 1600.