American Wigeon

The very colorful American Wigeon was spotted in Frederick County not long ago. The American Wigeon is a medium sized dabbling duck, meaning that it feeds on the surface or just below the waterline. The wigeon has a round head with a white patch on top, a short, pale blue bill, and stocky neck. Their white belly is very noticeable when the bird is in flight. The male has a distinct green patch around his eyes, most evident during the mating season. The females are brown with shades of orange on their flank and the white skull cap.

Wigeons prefer open areas, and can be spotted in ponds, open marshes, wet grasslands, mudflats, and slow-moving rivers. The American wigeon is very adept at moving across dry land, sometimes spotted in open fields and agricultural land, feeding on discarded grain crops. Adult wigeon diets consist mostly of plants, but they will also feed on insects and small crustaceans. Young birds depend mostly on aquatic insects and crustaceans.

Wigeons are much smaller than mallards

Credit: Jan Barrow, Myersville MD

Wigeons congregate in small groups unless they are migrating— then they form large flocks. These are noisy birds— the male has a loud whistle, and the female quacks. Wigeons are very nervous, quick to flight, with a fast, irregular flight pattern. Wigeons tend to travel to the upper Midwest and Canadian provinces during the mating season, and migrate to the southern states and Central America during the fall. Despite this bird being a popular waterfowl with hunters, wigeon populations are stable or even increasing slightly throughout their range.

Article by FCFCDB

Page header photo credit: Jan Barrow, Myersville MD

Nature note for 2/27/21