Bird GuideDucks and GeeseEurasian Wigeon

At a Glance

This Old World counterpart to our American Wigeon is a regular winter visitor to the Pacific lowlands from Canada to California. Small numbers are also seen in winter in the northeast and elsewhere. In parts of the Pacific Northwest, examination of any winter flock of wigeon is likely to reveal a male Eurasian among them, because the two wigeon species invariably flock together.
Category
Duck-like Birds, Surface Feeding Ducks
Conservation
Low Concern
Habitat
Freshwater Wetlands, Lakes, Ponds, and Rivers, Saltwater Wetlands
Region
Alaska and The North, California, Eastern Canada, Florida, Great Lakes, Mid Atlantic, New England, Northwest, Plains, Rocky Mountains, Southeast, Texas, Western Canada
Behavior
Direct Flight, Rapid Wingbeats
Population
2.000.000

Range & Identification

Migration & Range Maps

Reaches North America from both east and west. Birds banded in Iceland have been recovered in eastern Canada. Regular in migration in western and southern Alaska. Birds wintering in Pacific lowlands from British Columbia to California probably come from eastern Siberia.

Description

18-20" (46-51 cm). Male has bright rusty head with buff crown stripe; mostly gray body. Compare to male Redhead. Rare hybrids with American Wigeon have intermediate patterns (but American can have buff on crown also). Female very much like female American Wigeon, may have browner head.
Size
About the size of a Crow, About the size of a Mallard or Herring Gull
Color
Brown, Gray, Green, Orange, Red, White, Yellow
Wing Shape
Pointed, Tapered
Tail Shape
Pointed, Short, Wedge-shaped

Songs and Calls

Piping 2-note whistle, seldom heard in America.
Call Pattern
Flat, Undulating
Call Type
Whistle

Habitat

Marshes, lakes, bays, fields. In winter in North America often on marshy ponds with open ground nearby, or in flooded fields; also on shallow coastal estuaries and sheltered bays. Presence of American Wigeon is best key to good habitat for Eurasian Wigeon.

Behavior

Eggs

8-9, sometimes 6-12. Whitish to pale buff. Incubation is by female only, 24-25 days. Young: leave nest and go to water shortly after hatching. Young are tended by female but find all their own food. Age at first flight 40-45 days.

Young

Leave nest and go to water shortly after hatching. Young are tended by female but find all their own food. Age at first flight 40-45 days.

Feeding Behavior

Forages by grazing on land, by dabbling at surface of water, sometimes by submerging head and neck. May steal food brought to surface by other species such as coots or geese. May feed by day or night.

Diet

Almost entirely plant material. Diet in North America not well known; in Europe, eats wide variety of leaves, stems, roots, seeds. Eats some insects in summer.

Nesting

Known to breed only in Old World, but likely to be found nesting in North America eventually. Several males may compete with each other in courting one female, jostling for position. Displays of male include lifting tips of folded wings to expose white wing patch, raising head while giving whistled call, lowering bill to display buffy crown patch to female. Nest site is on ground under dense vegetation, usually near water. Nest is shallow depression lined with grass and with large amount of down.

Climate Vulnerability

Conservation Status

Numbers reported wintering in North America (mainly in west) have increased in recent decades, reflecting better coverage or actual population increase. Possibly breeding at some undiscovered site on this continent.

Climate Map

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect the range of the Eurasian Wigeon. Learn even more in our Audubon’s Survival By Degrees project.

Climate Threats Facing the Eurasian Wigeon

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.