Photo: G. Lasley/Vireo

American Wigeon

Anas americana

While most dabbling ducks are denizens of the shallows, American Wigeon spend much of their time in flocks grazing on land. Paradoxically, they also spend more time than other marsh ducks on deep water, where they get much of their food by stealing it from other birds such as coots or diving ducks. This duck was once known as "Baldpate" because of its white crown.
Conservation status Apparently stable. Since about the 1930s the breeding range has expanded eastward somewhat in eastern Canada and the northeastern states.
Family Ducks and Geese
Habitat Marshes, lakes, bays, fields. In summer mainly on inland marshes, especially larger marshes, not often at small ponds. In migration and winter on coastal estuaries, fresh or salt marshes, inland lakes and ponds. May winter on large deep lakes.
While most dabbling ducks are denizens of the shallows, American Wigeon spend much of their time in flocks grazing on land. Paradoxically, they also spend more time than other marsh ducks on deep water, where they get much of their food by stealing it from other birds such as coots or diving ducks. This duck was once known as "Baldpate" because of its white crown.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male, breeding
  • adult female
  • adult male, nonbreeding
  • adult male, breeding
  • adult female
Feeding Behavior

Versatile in foraging. Flocks often feed on land; feed in shallow water, taking items from surface or submerging head and neck; also associates with diving birds on deeper water, robbing them of their food when they come to the surface. May feed by day or night.


Eggs

8-11, sometimes 5-12. Whitish. Incubation is by female only, 23-24 days. Male usually departs before eggs hatch. Young: Leave nest shortly after hatching, feed themselves. Female remains with brood for much of their pre-flight stage. Young capable of flight 45-63 days after hatching.


Young

Leave nest shortly after hatching, feed themselves. Female remains with brood for much of their pre-flight stage. Young capable of flight 45-63 days after hatching.

Diet

Mostly plant material. Eats aquatic plants such as pondweeds, sedges, wild celery, eelgrass, algae. Also eats some insects and snails. On land, grazes on young grass shoots, and consumes seeds and waste grains. Very young ducklings eat many insects.


Nesting

Pair formation begins on wintering grounds; most older birds paired before spring migration. Several males often court one female. In one display, male extends neck forward with head low, bill open, while raising tips of folded wings, revealing white wing patches. Tends to begin nesting later in season than most dabblers. Nest site on dry land, sometimes on island, usually within 100' of water but sometimes up to 1/2 mile away; site concealed by tall vegetation. Nest (built by female) is shallow depression filled with grasses and weeds, lined with down.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Migrates in flocks, and may travel mostly by day. In summer, when males leave their mates, they may fly great distances to large open marshes where they will stay while going through the flightless stage of their molt. In western U.S., southward migration seems to be gradual, with numbers in southern California not reaching peak until December or January.

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Migration

Migrates in flocks, and may travel mostly by day. In summer, when males leave their mates, they may fly great distances to large open marshes where they will stay while going through the flightless stage of their molt. In western U.S., southward migration seems to be gradual, with numbers in southern California not reaching peak until December or January.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Distinctive whistled whew-whee-whew; also quacks.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Duck-like Birds Surface Feeding Ducks

American Wigeon

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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