American Wigeon

Bird of the Month: American Wigeon

By Hugh Jennings

PC: Mick Thompson (American Wigeon)

PC: Mick Thompson (American Wigeon)

Scientific Name: Anas American

Length 19 in

AOU Band code AMWI

A medium sized duck, about 19” in length.  The four letter code is AMWI.  It is one of the most abundant and conspicuous wintering ducks along the Pacific Coast.  Large flocks can be seen feeding in farm fields, rafting on coastal bays or inland lakes, or grazing on the grass in urban parks and golf courses.  They are presently common on Phantom Lake in and the farm fields on the Lake Hills Greenbelt trail, and at Juanita Bay and Lake Sammamish State Park.

The musical “whew-whew” notes of the male can be heard constantly from a flock.  The male’s white forehead and cap are conspicuous in mixed flocks.  The male also has large white patches on the upperside of the wings, a brown body, a grayish-brown head with a bold green patch through the eye.  The female AMWI has some of the white in the wings and show more brown on the sides of the body.  Wigeons are fond of many of the sub-surface salt-water plants and are frequently seen among them feeding diving ducks.  If they cannot reach food by tipping, they will rob diving ducks, snatching plants from the victims’ bills as the divers emerge.  In flocks of 100 or more AMWI there will occasionally be a Eurasian Wigeon (Anas Penelope).  The Eurasian adult males have a reddish-brown head with a cream colored forehead and cap.  The female shows a somewhat browner head than the female AMWI, but in the field they cannot be easily separated.  The habits of the two species of wigeon are very similar.