HARRIS COUNTY (Covering Katy News) – A rare male Eurasian Wigeon, which normally breeds in the northernmost areas of Europe and Asia, has been sighted on the Katy Prairie Conservancy’s Indiangrass Preserve in a wetland pond next to its field office on Hebert Road. The sighting has generated intense excitement among area birders, who first spotted this member of the dabbling duck genus Mareca, late last week.
“This handsome fellow is creating quite a stir in the birding community,” says Bob Honig, a member of KPC’s Advisory Board and an avid birder himself, who first spotted the bird. “It has a vivid orange-red head and a forehead that appears blazing gold especially when the sun hits it. Word spread quickly, and I’ve talked with people who drove from as far as Kerrville and Austin just to get a glimpse of this striking duck. It’s possible we’ve now had up to 200 birders check out Indiangrass Preserve over the last several days in hopes of seeing our Eurasian Wigeon.”
The Eurasian Wigeon is the Old World counterpart of North America’s American Wigeon. It is strongly migratory and winters farther south than its breeding range, including southern Asia and Africa. In Great Britain and Ireland, the Eurasian Wigeon is common as a winter visitor but scarce as a breeding bird in Scotland, the Lake District and the Pennines.
In the United States, the Eurasian Wigeon is considered an uncommon visitor on the mid-Atlantic and Pacific coasts and a rare visitor to the rest of the United States, except for the Four Corners and the southern Appalachians.
The Katy Prairie is known as a birder’s paradise with more than 300 species of birds having been observed there. The 20,000 acres of lands protected by KPC are recognized as a Global Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. The tallgrass prairies, ranchlands, farmlands, wetlands, forests and riparian zones provide vital habitat for a highly diverse group of birds, including numerous species of conservation concern — for example, grassland species such as Long-billed Curlew, Henslow’s Sparrow and Northern Bobwhite – plus raptors, water birds, and other upland species.
“Bird watching is a hugely popular hobby and pastime in this country,” says Honig. “We hope more people will realize the joys of identifying and photographing birds out on the Katy Prairie, which is a haven for so many interesting species. It’s a wonderful getaway from the urban hustle and bustle.”