Spring Migration of Waterfowl

Although winter is not quite over in the high country, hints of spring usually begin showing themselves in early April, including the arrival of migratory waterfowl.  Blue Valley Ranch and the Rocky Mountains sit right on the border between the Pacific and Central Flyways for migrating birds, so we often see species from both migratory routes.  Many biologists refer to the Central Mountain Flyway as a distinct migratory route, which includes the San Louis Valley, South Park, Middle Park and North Park.


Canada (not Canadian) geese (Branta canadensis) are often the first to show up, as this pair did in early March.


American white pelicans (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) begin showing up later in April.  These particular birds will likely stay all summer but are not breeding.


This pair of ring-necked ducks (Aythya collaris) is a diving species that do not often stay very long before moving on.  Note the white “spur” just in front of the male’s wing.


This male western grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis) was spotted alone on one of the ranch ponds, except for the company of the eared grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) in the picture below.  Grebes are, like the pelicans, not strictly waterfowl, a term that technically refers to ducks, geese, swans and other waterbirds pursued as game for food.  Note the red eye, which is characteristic of many grebe species.


Finally, the American coot (Fulica americana), in the photo below, is also not a duck, though it looks a bit like one when on the water.  Coots are actually more closely related to sandhill cranes than ducks, and walk very much like a chicken when on land.


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