Winter Water Birds
Avian life changes with the seasons, and at Greenwich Point, is quite noticeable in coastal species. Most wintering water birds breed during the spring and summer in the far north regions of the U.S. and Canada, then migrate south for available food in unfrozen waters. Most are found in flocks and easily viewable without binoculars.
Brant is a small goose species. No other goose species breed as far north (Canadian Arctic) as Brant, and few travel as long a migratory distance as Brant. Brant forage on eelgrass (a favorite) and other plant materials in shallow waters at the Point.
Depending on diet, some ducks are dabblers and others are divers. Dabblers eat mainly aquatic vegetation in shallow water, divers feast on fish, crustaceans, mollusks, snails in deeper waters. Most male ducks are more colorfully marked than females.
Buffleheads, the smallest diving ducks, are usually seen in Greenwich Cove and Eagle Pond, and their flocks perform almost-synchronized diving. Their name originates from the “buffalo-head” descriptive of the male’s puffed head shape.
Two wintering merganser species, both divers, have long, slim, serrated bills enabling them to hold on to slippery fish. Slender Red-breasted Mergansers have a “bad hair day” look. Hooded Mergansers, the smallest of merganser species with a distinctive head shape, prefer calmer waters, and are frequently seen in Eagle Pond and the smaller pond nearby.
Diving Long-tailed Ducks were formerly (now politically incorrectly) named “Oldsquaw”, due to their “chatty” nature. Interestingly, males do most of the talking and are more often heard than seen.
The Common Loon, with its haunting yodeling and moaning calls, is a Northwoods lakes icon. The Red-throated Loon is the smaller of the two species. Sizeable fish foragers, loons can dive deep and stay underwater for longer than a minute or two.
Those are just a few of the commonly sighted winter birds at Greenwich Point. Take time to observe them and their unique behaviors. Above all, enjoy their diversity and beauty. Learn much more by joining friendly, informative “First Sundays” bird walks, on the first Sunday of each month year-round. Bring binoculars and meet at 9am by the main concession.