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American Wigeon

Order:  Anseriformes - Waterfowl, ducks, geese, swans, and screamers
Family:  Anatidae - Ducks, geese, and swans

Scientific Name: Anas americana


American WigeonDescription:  Length 1 ½ ft.  Wingspan 2 ½ ft.  Weight 1-2 lbs.  Iris is brown. Bill is grayish-blue with black tip.  Legs and feet are grayish-blue to ash gray. Male call is a distinctive three syllable whistle, middle note is the loudest.  Female call is one to three syllables, soft and growling.


Male Plumage:  White strip from the forehead to the middle of the crown, and an iridescent green patch from the eye to the back of the head.  The rest of the head and upper neck are white or buff white heavily spotted with blackish coloration.  Sides of the breasts, flanks, scapulars, back and rump are all pinkish-brown, finely vermiculated with black, and the breast is purplish pink.  The under parts and sides of the rump behind the flanks are white.  Tail coverts are mostly black, tail is dark gray to brown, outer feathers are silvery gray, edged with white. 


Female Plumage: Brownish-black crown, streaked with white coloration, the rest of the head and upper neck are whitish with darker spotting. The rest of the body is grayish-brown tipped with gray and white.    


RangeHome Range:  Northwest to central North America, and south as far as northeast California and northern Colorado.  They winter along Atlantic and Pacific coasts of North America and inland south to Panama, Bermuda, Hawaii, Venezuela and Columbia.  They are common to abundant transients in Kansas, especially at Cheyenne Bottoms.  They are among the earliest to arrive at their winter grounds.


Habitat Type:  Freshwater swamps, pools and shallow lakes surrounded by good grazing grounds often in lightly wooded country.  Found in coastal wetlands in winter.


Reproductive Habits:  Sexual maturity at 1 year, occasionally 2 years.  Pair forming begins as early as November.  Their courtship activity occurs between November and March.  Pair bonds are held only for a single breeding season.  Rarely, a pair will remain bonded for a second year.  The male does not remain with the female to assist with rearing the brood.  Courtship is marked by intense competition in males, with a repeated uttering of their call, and their wings nearly vertical above their backs.  Also repeated chin lifting movements and soft growling calls.  Breeding season is April - May.  Breed in single pairs or loose groups.  Female lays 7-9 eggs; incubates them 23-25 days.  Ducklings fledge at 5-6 weeks. 


Diet in Wild:  Aquatic plants such as pond weeds, musk grass, wild celery, wigeon grass, fields of lettuce and alfalfa.


Diet in Zoo:  Cracked corn, layer ration, and naturally growing plants in and around the duck pond.  Occasionally fed bread by the public.


General Info:  Wigeons are very alert and excitable ducks.  They reside in small flocks, but the world wide population is large.  The wigeon population is not in any danger. 


Conservation status: Not threatened. Locally abundant.


Birds in Kansas. Vol. 1. 1989.  M. Thompson; C. Ely. University of Kansas Press. p, 96.

Ducks, Geese and Swans of the World.  1978.  P.A. Johnsgard.  University of Nebraska Press.  Lincoln and London.  pp.187-189.

Handbook of the Birds of the World.  Vol. 1.  1992.  J. del Hoyo; A. Elliot; J. Sargatal.  Lynx Edicions.  Barcelona.  pp.601.

Grzimek’s Animal Life Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. 383-384 pp.