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American Wigeon

Mareca (Anas) americana

Dabbling Ducks Family

Waterfowl Identification

 
Male American Wigeon
male
Female American Wigeon
female
Similar Waterfowl:
Female Eurasian Wigeon
Description:
Both males and females have a bluish black-tipped bill. Male American wigeons have a white patch from the forehead to the middle of the crown and an iridescent green band from the eye to the back of the head. They have pinkish-brown breast and sides that are separated from the black undertail coverts by white flank feathers. In flight, the white shoulder patch is diagnostic. The legs and feet are blue-gray to dark gray. Female American wigeons have a gray head with a brownish black crown and brownish chest and sides. The legs and feet are blue-gray to dark gray.
Typical Size:
The male and female average 20 inches in length and weigh 1 3/4 pounds. They have a wingspan of 32 inches.
Habitat:
American wigeon prefer shallow lakes and marshy sloughs that are surrounded by dry sedge-lined meadows and contain submergent vegetation.
Breeding:
American wigeon nest farther north than any other dabbling duck with the exception of the pintail. They breed throughout northern Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, Alaska, and the Northwest Territories. Female American wigeons lay an average of 9 eggs.
Diet:
American wigeon are aquatic grazers and forage on grasses and sedges in wet meadows and pastures.
Migration:
American wigeon are among the earliest waterfowl to reach their wintering grounds. Wigeon in Alaska and western Canada migrate along the Pacific Flyway and winter around Puget Sound and into California. Birds that use the Central flyway winter in the Texas panhandle and along the Texas and Louisiana coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Along the Mississippi flyway, wetlands and lakes in eastern Arkansas and western Tennessee also provide important wintering habitat for wigeon. They use a variety of habitats in winter, including ponds, lakes, and saline and brackish marshes with abundant aquatic vegetation. Wigeon also readily forage on grasses and sedges in wet meadows and pastures. American wigeon are common winter visitor to Central America, the Caribbean, and northern Colombia.
Flyway Patterns:
The American wigeon are most commonly found in the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi flyway corridors.
Flight Formation:
Small compact high flying flocks. Flight is swift, strong and erratic. Speeds reach 70 MPH.
Voice:
The male has a triple whistle WHEW-WHEW-WHEW and the female has a weak QUA-AWK.

American Wigeon Flight and Plumage Characteristics

This guide will help you recognize wigeon on the wing - it emphasizes their fall and winter plumage patterns as well as size, shape, and flight characteristics. American wigeons are nervous birds, alarm easily and their flight is fast and irregular with many twists and turns, much like pigeons. In large open water, they often group offshore until late afternoon and then move to marshes and ponds to feed. The white belly and forewing help identify them in flight. The drake has a triple whistle WHEW-WHEW-WHEW and the hen has a weak QUA-AWK

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