Eurasian Wigeon

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Common Name: Eurasian Wigeon
Scientific Name: Anas penelope

Size: 17-20 inches (42-52 cm); Wingspan: 28-31 inches (71-80 cm)

Habitat: Worldwide; it breeds in the northernmost areas of Europe and Asia. Although it is scarce as a breeding bird in Scotland, the Lake District, the Pennines and occasionally further south, with only a handful of breeding pairs in Ireland. It migrates much further than its breeding range, as far as southern Asia and Africa. In Great Britain and Ireland the Eurasian Wigeon is common as a winter visitor. It can also be found as an uncommon winter visitor in the United States on the mid-Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

This species breeds in lowland freshwater marshes, slow-flowing large rivers and shallow lakes and lagoons with ample submerged, floating and emerging vegetation Ideal wetland habitats for this species are those surrounded by sparse open forest, woodland and especially agricultural land, in the boreal and subarctic zone. It avoids tundra, densely forested and mountainous country, as well as fast flowing rivers and streams, but tolerates saline or alkaline steppe lakes and wetlands. In the non-breeding season this species shows a preference for coastal salt-marshes, freshwater, brackish and saline lagoons, flooded grasslands, estuaries, intertidal mudflats, and other sheltered marine habitats.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 2,800,000 to 3,300,000 individuals. The overall trend is decreasing, although some populations may be stable or increasing. This species is susceptible to disturbance from freshwater recreational activities (e.g. tourists walking), pollution (including thallium contamination, petroleum pollution, wetland drainage, peat-extraction, changing wetland management practices (decreased grazing and mowing in meadows leading to scrub over-growth) and the burning and mowing of reeds. Avian influenza virus (strain H5N1) is also a potential threat, as is poisoning from the ingestion of lead shot. This species is hunted for sport, and although population numbers in an area decrease significantly after a period of shooting, there is no current evidence that it poses an immediate threat to the species. The Eurasian Wigeon is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

Diet: Vegetarian; consumes the leaves, seeds, stems and root bulbs of pond weeds, fine grasses, horsetails and eelgrass, as well as algae.

Nesting: The breeding male (Drake) has grey flanks and back, with a black rear end, a dark green speculum and a brilliant white patch on upper wings, which is obvious in flight or at rest. It also has a pink breast, white belly, and a chestnut head with a creamy crown. In non-breeding (eclipse) plumage, the drake looks more like the female.

The female is light brown, with plumage much like a female American Wigeon. However, that species has a paler head and white axillaries on its underwing. The female Eurasian Wigeons have two color phases, they have a rufous phase with a redder head, and a gray phase with a grayer head. It can be distinguished from most other ducks, apart from American Wigeon, by its shape.

The nests of this species are shallow depressions in the ground lined with vegetation, usually positioned not far from water and well concealed under overhanging vegetation, in grass tussocks, scrub, and especially in heather.

Cool Facts: Widgeon or wigeon? Widgeon is an older spelling with Wigeon becoming the more accepted term by birders now.

The Eurasian Wigeons seen each year in North America likely come from eastern Siberia and Iceland.

It is a noisy species. The male has a clear whistle that sounds like: "pjiew pjiew", whereas the female has a low growl: "rawr".

Found in Songbird Remix Waterfowl Volume I: Dabbling Ducks

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