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Anas americana; aka Baldpate
A medium-sized duck, the American wigeon has a body length of 17 to 23 inches, an average wingspan of 33 inches, and a weight of 19 to 47 ounces.
This species is distinguished from other dabbling ducks by its small bill, the male's white forehead (which also accounts for the alternative name of "baldpate"), and certain aspects of its nesting and feeding behavior. Other characteristic features include the male's bright green face patch, a large white patch on each wing, and a black rear end bordered by white.
Like most other species of ducks, male wigeons are more brightly colored than females, except for a few weeks during the summer moult, when both sexes look almost identical. Immature wigeons are similar in appearance to adult females.
Distribution and Habitat
As the distribution map at left shows, American wigeons can be seen across almost all of North America at some time during the year. They breed in northwestern North America, from Alaska into central Canada, southward into the northern tier of the United States. Their wintering range extends from southern Alaska and British Columbia along the Pacific Coast to Baja California, from the Central Plains of the United States southward into Central America, along the Atlantic Coast from New England into Florida, and throughout the islands of the Caribbean and even into northern South America. Some populations spend their entire year in the northern reaches of the Rocky Mountain region.
Wigeons are most commonly found on shallow freshwater wetlands, including ponds, marshes, and rivers.
Courtship displays include tail-wagging, head-turning, wing-flapping, and sudden jumps out of the water. As with most other species of ducks, American wigeons mate for one season only, with the male leaving the female soon after the eggs are laid.
The nest is usually located in tall grass or shrubs, usually far away from water. It consists of a depression on the ground, lined with grasses and down. Three to twelve creamy white eggs are laid per average clutch.
Wigeons are primarily vegetarian, feeding mostly on aquatic plants growing at or just below the surface. During the breeding season they will supplement their diet with some insects and occasional small mollusks.
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This page was last updated on March 22, 2018.