American Wigeon

American Wigeon, Vancouver Island, BC
American Wigeon, Vancouver Island, BC, photo by Bud Logan

The American Wigeon is a very pretty duck. The male has a bright white flank and a white line on its crown, a dark green patch behind his eyes, and a light grayish-blue bill with a black tip. The female is a dull gray to light brown with the blue bill and its black tip.

They breed in western North America as far as Alaska and return to the southern portions of British Columbia, including all the gulf islands. Their nests are built on the ground in a depression lined with down and grass. The nest is concealed in tall weeds and grasses, often far from the water. The female lays up to 12 cream-colored eggs and incubates them for about 25 days. The young leave the nest soon after hatching and will have fledged by 8 weeks of age.

These ducks prefer shallow freshwater ponds, marshes, lakes, and rivers but here on the island in winter, they can be found along our ocean shores in large groups, bunched together in floating rafts. Their diet includes aquatic plants, insects, and mollusks. The American Wigeon is often found feeding with other ducks such as the mallards, goldeneye ducks, and teals, who are much better at rooting up vegetation, these little birds will quite often steal food away from the other ducks as they return to the surface.

American Wigeon, Vancouver Island, BC
American Wigeon, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Bud Logan

American wigeon has a preference for northern nesting areas, so their migration is more prolonged than the migration of ducks that breed farther south. Wigeons will start moving south early in September, and the majority of the population that nest in Alaska will follow the Pacific Coast to Vancouver Island. Most will stay to winter here, while others will continue on down the coast. Some go as far as California to winter.

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