Wigeon (Anas penelope)

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Male wigeon
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Wigeon fact file

Wigeon description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderAnseriformes
FamilyAnatidae
GenusAnas

The wigeon (Anas penelope) is a medium-sized duck with a well-known whistling call - 'wheeooo' - familiar to all who have witnessed their huge winter flocks on the fens and coastal marshes of Norfolk. Drakes (males) in breeding plumage have grey backs, white bellies and pink chests. The head is chestnut in colour with a buff forehead, while the tail is predominantly black. After moulting, when the plumage is said to be in 'eclipse', the drakes resemble the females, which are grey or buff-coloured birds with a white underside. The drakes are rather more rufous than the females, however. Juveniles look very similar to females.

Also known as
Eurasian wigeon.
French
Canard siffleur.
Size
Length: 42 – 50cm
Wingspan: 71 – 85cm
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Wigeon biology

The wigeon is a grazer but will take grain when available. In May, the drakes erect their small crests and display to females, but once mating has taken place, they take no further part in rearing the young. The female constructs a nest on the ground amongst bracken or heather, and lines it with dried grass and down from her own breast. The eggs are buff-coloured, and there may be eight in the clutch. They are incubated for 25 days and the ducklings leave the nest soon after hatching. Attended by their mother, they fly after about 40 days.

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Wigeon range

Although there is a population that winters along the east coast of the USA, most wigeon are Eurasian birds, ranging from the Mediterranean north to Scandinavia, Russia and Siberia, north to the Barents Sea. These northern populations migrate south to spend winter in southern Europe and the UK. The birds also breed in northern Britain, principally in the Scottish uplands.

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Wigeon habitat

Wigeons breed on upland moors near shallow lochs, and occasionally on coastal marshes. Outside the breeding season, they congregate around estuaries, coastal lagoons, reservoirs and lakes with close access to grazing meadows.

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Wigeon status

The wigeon is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). Receives general protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (as amended) in the UK. Included in the Birds of Conservation Concern Amber List (medium conservation concern).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Wigeon threats

The wigeon is not an especially threatened species; the UK breeding population has numbered at least 300 pairs for nearly 30 years. There have been local declines, thought to have been caused by acidification of upland lakes and loss of nesting habitat through afforestation.

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Wigeon conservation

There are two Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for breeding wigeon supporting some 80 pairs, about 27 percent of the UK breeding population. The bulk of the world’s wigeon breed in Scandinavia and Russia. The largest concentrations of the birds in Britain occur during winter with the arrival of migrants from northern Europe and Asia. Estimates suggest that over 300,000 wigeon over winter in the UK, this figure is thought to represent fewer than 18 percent of the world population. There are 38 SPAs throughout Britain designated for wintering wigeon. Of these, by far the largest numbers are found on the Ribble and Alt Estuaries in Lancashire and the Ouse Washes in Cambridgeshire.

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Find out more

For more information on the wigeon and other bird species:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Incubate
To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
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Image credit

Male wigeon  
Male wigeon

© Markus Varesvuo / naturepl.com

Nature Picture Library
5a Great George Street
Bristol
BS1 5RR
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 117 911 4675
Fax: +44 (0) 117 911 4699
info@naturepl.com
http://www.naturepl.com

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Listen to the Wigeon

Male wigeon
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Wigeon recordings by Marian P. McChesney and David Stemple

© Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Macaulay Library
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
159 Sapsucker Woods Road
Ithaca
New York 14850
United States of America
Tel: +1 (607) 254-2404
Fax: +1 (607) 254-2439
Email: macaulaylibrary@cornell.edu
Website: www.birds.cornell.edu/MacaulayLibrary

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