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What is an American Wigeon?

The American Wigeon is a captivating dabbling duck known for its striking plumage and distinctive whistle. Males boast a bold green eye-patch, while females charm with subtle elegance. These birds grace North American wetlands, often mingling with other ducks. Intrigued by their migratory journeys or unique feeding habits? Join us as we unveil the wonders of the American Wigeon's world.
L.K. Blackburn
L.K. Blackburn

An American wigeon is a species of dabbling duck that is indigenous to North America. Wigeons live in fresh and salt water marshes, and primarily eat plants. The ducks are dun-colored, which is a sandy red brown, and the male duck has a white stripe, green markings, and white tail feathers during the breeding season.

Dabbling ducks are ducks that do not dive underneath the water to find food to eat, and the American wigeon is no exception to this; instead, they travel out to deep water on occasion to feed on surface aquatic plants. Additionally, a wigeon will watch other birds and diving duck activity, and will sometimes steal the food the birds have acquired from diving below the surface. Wigeons also graze for plants and seeds in open fields, and grains make up a substantial portion of their diet. Female American wigeons eat invertebrate aquatic insects during breeding season, but this is the only time the ducks eat something other than plants. An American wigeon will eat during the day and at night to avoid interacting with potential predators, and forages throughout travel.


The ducks live in marshes, lakes, and both fresh and salt water flooded fields. Bays and estuaries are also frequent habitats for an American wigeon. As such, the loss of marshes and wetlands to new development affects the habitat of the wigeon, but population numbers are generally stable. Severe drought has the largest impact on the species, historically causing substantial loss in breeding population. Generally, the average number of American wigeon ducks is around three million.

American wigeon ducks are found throughout North America, and the general location changes with the season over the course of a year. For breeding, the ducks fly north to Canada, the Great Lakes region, as well as North and South Dakota. During the winter, ducks are found as far south as Mexico, and are also found living year-round in Hawaii.

Male ducks migrate north for the winter before female ducks, leaving directly after a female breeding partner's eggs have hatched. Female ducks lay 10 eggs on average, and build a nest near but not directly next to a water source. The eggs incubate for up to 25 days, and the mother duck will watch over the ducklings until they are on average 63 days old. Male ducks will stay with a female to guard the eggs during the incubation, but are not part of the process of raising the baby ducklings.

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