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Overview

Brief Summary

Anas americana

Known by duck hunters as the “Baldpate,” the American Widgeon may be readily identified by the large white forehead patch which gives this species its nickname. A medium-sized (18-23 inches) species of duck, the male American Widgeon is also characterized by a large green head patch, brown sides, and large white wing patches visible in flight. The female is less ornate, being mostly brown overall with less white on the wings. American Widgeons breed primarily from west-central Alaska east to the Hudson Bay, and from just south of the tundra in Canada south to the upper Great Plains. Recently, this species has expanded eastward, and isolate breeding occurs along the Great Lakes, around the St. Lawrence River, and in the Maritime Provinces in eastern Canada. This species migrates south for the winter, where it may be found along the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf coasts of the U.S., in the southern Plains, and points south. The American Widgeon breeds in shallow wetlands throughout its breeding range. Preferring freshwater in summer, this species is less constrained in winter, when it may be found on rivers and lakes or in saltwater estuaries and bays. American Widgeons feed primarily on aquatic plants and grasses in winter, but they may also consume insects and other small invertebrates during the breeding season. American Widgeons may be seen either on land or in the water, where they may be observed foraging for food. This species may also be observed taking off straight up from the water or undertaking straight, swift flights on migration or between breeding or foraging grounds. American Widgeons are most active during the day.

Threat Status: Least concern

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Distribution

occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDS: mainly Alaska east to Manitoba, south to northeastern California, northern Nevada, northern Colorado, northern Nebraska, northern Minnesota. NORTHERN WINTER: mainly southern Alaska-Mexico; central U.S. to southern Great Lakes and Ohio Valley; Nova Scotia south along coast to Gulf of Mexico, West Indies, Panama, northern Colombia, Trinidad, rarely northwestern Venezuela; uncommon but regular in Hawaii. In the U.S., the highest winter densities generally occur in the coastal Pacific Northwest and the vicinity of the Texas-New Mexico border (Root 1988).

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North America
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Geographic Range

The American wigeon has very large winter and breeding ranges that spread north to the tips of Alaska and Canada, and south through Mexico to the northern parts of South America. Winter distribution is concentrated in the lower 48 states and all of Mexico, excluding high elevation Rocky Mountain and Appalachian areas. Breeding takes place mostly in western Canada but is spread throughout northwestern North America.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Mowbray, T. 1999. American Wigeon, No. 401. Pp. 1-32 in A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America. Washington, DC: The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union.
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Range

Alaska to s US; winters to nw South America.

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Geographic Range

The American wigeon has very large winter and breeding ranges that spread north to the tips of Alaska and Canada, and south through Mexico to the northern parts of South America. Winter distribution is concentrated in the lower 48 states and all of Mexico, excluding high elevation Rocky Mountain and Appalachian areas. Breeding takes place mostly in western Canada but is spread throughout northwestern North America.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Mowbray, T. 1999. American Wigeon, No. 401. Pp. 1-32 in A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America. Washington, DC: The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

In alternate plumage adult males have a white crown and forehead and a broad, dark green patch surrounding the eye and nape. The bill is blue-gray with a black tip. The rest of the neck, face and upper back is buffy white with heavy black speckling. The breast and flanks are reddish brown with a bright white underbelly. Upperwing-coverts are white so that there is a large white patch when wings are extended. In alternate plumage adult females have a brownish black crown, streaked with creamy white. The bill is grayish with a black tip. The rest of the head and neck is white with heavy streaking and the back is grayish brown with light barring. Flanks are reddish brown and the belly is white. The white wing patch is poorly defined in the female. In basic plumage adult males resemble females but may have slightly brighter sides and flanks.

The American wigeon is most likely to be confused with the Eurasian wigeon, which is seen only rarely in North America. In alternate plumage, the adult male Eurasian wigeon is most easily distinguished from the adult male American wigeon by its red head and gray back and sides. Females and juveniles are very similar but can be distinguished by the axillars, which are finely speckled with dark gray in the Eurasian wigeon, but pure white in the American wigeon. (Mowbray, 1999)

Range mass: 665 to 1330 g.

Range length: 45 to 58 cm.

Average wingspan: 86.4 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

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Physical Description

In alternate plumage adult males have a white crown and forehead and a broad, dark green patch surrounding the eye and nape. The bill is blue-gray with a black tip. The rest of the neck, face and upper back is buffy white with heavy black speckling. The breast and flanks are reddish brown with a bright white underbelly. Upperwing-coverts are white so that there is a large white patch when wings are extended. In alternate plumage adult females have a brownish black crown, streaked with creamy white. The bill is grayish with a black tip. The rest of the head and neck is white with heavy streaking and the back is grayish brown with light barring. Flanks are reddish brown and the belly is white. The white wing patch is poorly defined in the female. In basic plumage adult males resemble females but may have slightly brighter sides and flanks.

The American wigeon is most likely to be confused with the Eurasian wigeon, which is seen only rarely in North America. In alternate plumage, the adult male Eurasian wigeon is most easily distinguished from the adult male American wigeon by its red head and gray back and sides. Females and juveniles are very similar but can be distinguished by the axillars, which are finely speckled with dark gray in the Eurasian wigeon, but pure white in the American wigeon. (Mowbray, 1999)

Range mass: 665 to 1330 g.

Range length: 45 to 58 cm.

Average wingspan: 86.4 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

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Size

Length: 48 cm

Weight: 792 grams

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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Large marshes and lakes; when not breeding, in both freshwater and brackish areas and foraging in marsh edges, sloughs and sheltered bays (AOU 1983). Nests in freshwater situations with exposed shorelines; on dry land on islands, near lakes, ponds or sloughs; but often relatively far from water.

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lake, grasslands, river, marsh, estuarine, intertidal or littoral
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
  • Marine
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In the winter, the wigeon is found most often in lacustrine and intertidal areas where the emergence of plants material is abundant. It inhabits freshwater marshes, rivers, lakes, estuaries, saltwater bays, and agricultural lands.

During the breeding season it prefers areas with vegetation cover near lakes or marshy sloughs. Mixed grass and short grass prairies are preferred for breeding.

(Mowbray, 1999)

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial ; freshwater

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams

Wetlands: marsh

Other Habitat Features: agricultural ; estuarine ; intertidal or littoral

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In the winter, the wigeon is found most often in lacustrine and intertidal areas where the emergence of plants material is abundant. It inhabits freshwater marshes, rivers, lakes, estuaries, saltwater bays, and agricultural lands.

During the breeding season it prefers areas with vegetation cover near lakes or marshy sloughs. Mixed grass and short grass prairies are preferred for breeding.

(Mowbray, 1999)

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial ; freshwater

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams

Wetlands: marsh

Other Habitat Features: agricultural ; estuarine ; intertidal or littoral

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Depth range based on 9149 specimens in 1 taxon.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Migration

Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Migrates slowly northward through U.S. March-April, arriving in northern nesting areas April-May (late May-early June in Beaufort Sea region). Migrates southward in fall. Present in Puerto Rico and Colombia (uncommon) October-April, Costa Rica October-March (may leave early in very dry years) (Stiles and Skutch 1989). Migrates in small dense flocks. In late spring or early summer, males make long-distance molt migrations to marshes with broad expanses of open water.

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Feeds on leaves, stems, buds, and some seeds of pondweeds, wigeon grass, grasses, and sedges. Forages in shallow water and grazes in fields. May also take some snails, beetles, and crickets (Terres 1980).

On the water, primarily in wintering areas, they may be closely associated with American Coots (Fulica americana) and various species of diving ducks, pilfering plant material brought to the surface by these species as they themselves are not proficient divers (Birds of North America online, accessed December 2012).

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Food Habits

Shallow, freshwater wetlands, marshes, mudflats, slow moving rivers, and ponds are all potential areas for foraging for wigeons. These are areas where the abundance of emergent plant life and insects is the greatest. They will feed on a variety of aquatic insects such as damselflies and caddisflies, as well as terrestrial insects such as beetles. This type of food comprises a small part of their diet however. The largest food source is stems and leafy parts of aquatic plants, grasses, and agricultural plants. They particularly prefer muskgrasses and bushy pondweed. Differences between juvenile and adult food preferences have been noted.

These birds are better adapted morphologically and physiologically for grazing on aquatic and terrestrial plants than most other North American birds. They use the strength in the tip of their bill to pluck vegetation and also filter feed with the lamellae on the upper mandible. They are opportunistic and aggressive feeders, often foraging in open water on materials brought to the surface by diving ducks and coots.

Common foods eaten include: stems and leafy parts of aquatic plants, leafy parts of upland grasses, leafy parts and seeds of agricultural plants, aquatic insects, beetles, mollusks and crustaceans.

(Mowbray, 1999; Knapton and Pauls, 1994)

Animal Foods: insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; mollusks

Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

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Food Habits

Shallow, freshwater wetlands, marshes, mudflats, slow moving rivers, and ponds are all potential areas for foraging for wigeons. These are areas where the abundance of emergent plant life and insects is the greatest. They will feed on a variety of aquatic insects such as damselflies and caddisflies, as well as terrestrial insects such as beetles. This type of food comprises a small part of their diet however. The largest food source is stems and leafy parts of aquatic plants, grasses, and agricultural plants. They particularly prefer muskgrasses and bushy pondweed. Differences between juvenile and adult food preferences have been noted.

These birds are better adapted morphologically and physiologically for grazing on aquatic and terrestrial plants than most other North American birds. They use the strength in the tip of their bill to pluck vegetation and also filter feed with the lamellae on the upper mandible. They are opportunistic and aggressive feeders, often foraging in open water on materials brought to the surface by diving ducks and coots.

Common foods eaten include: stems and leafy parts of aquatic plants, leafy parts of upland grasses, leafy parts and seeds of agricultural plants, aquatic insects, beetles, mollusks and crustaceans.

(Mowbray, 1999; Knapton and Pauls, 1994)

Animal Foods: insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; mollusks

Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore , Granivore )

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Associations

Predation

If a female senses a predator while incubating she will rise silently and fly far away from the nest or toward the water to distract the predator. Females also perform a distraction display where they will feign injury, flap their wings over water, vocalize, and possibly become aggressive toward an intruder.(Mowbray, 1999)

Known Predators:

  • California gulls (Larus_californicus)
  • American crows (Corvus_brachyrhynchos)
  • striped skunks (Mephitis_mephitis)
  • Franklin's ground squirrels (Spermophilus_franklinii)
  • red foxes (Vulpes_vulpes)
  • short tailed weasels (Mustela_erminea)
  • northern harriers (Circus_cyaneus)
  • American badgers (Taxidea_taxus)

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Predation

If a female senses a predator while incubating she will rise silently and fly far away from the nest or toward the water to distract the predator. Females also perform a distraction display where they will feign injury, flap their wings over water, vocalize, and possibly become aggressive toward an intruder.(Mowbray, 1999)

Known Predators:

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Known predators

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Known prey organisms

Anas americana preys on:
Mollusca
Arthropoda
Insecta

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Diet

plant life and aquatic insects
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Reports of longevity vary considerably between sources. There have been recorded accounts of American wigeons up to 21 years of age. The average lifespan for a female is 1.7 years and the average lifespan for a male is 2.3 years.(Mowbray, 1999)

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
21 (high) years.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
20.68 to 27.98 months.

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Lifespan/Longevity

Reports of longevity vary considerably between sources. There have been recorded accounts of American wigeons up to 21 years of age. The average lifespan for a female is 1.7 years and the average lifespan for a male is 2.3 years.(Mowbray, 1999)

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
21 (high) years.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
20.68 to 27.98 months.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 21.3 years (wild)
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Reproduction

Breeding begins early May in south to early June in north. Clutch size is 6-12 (usually 9-11). Incubation, by female, lasts 22-24 days (Terres 1980). Young are tended by female, independent in about 6-7 weeks (Harrison 1978).

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Mating System: monogamous

Pair formation can begin with the arrival on wintering grounds. Breeding is not controlled strictly by photoperiod, but is also infleunced by habitat quality and food availability on the wintering grounds. Presumably the female selects the nest site, which is well concealed on dry ground and away from the water. Nests are typically found in areas of tall grasses and brush cover and in fairly close proximity to a food supply. They are constructed primarily of grasses and weed stems and lined with down. Incubation begins at the completion of the clutch and usually continues for an average of 25 days. The female spends almost 90% of the day on the nest; when the paired male is not accompanying the female in feeding, he spends the majority of his time on the water. He remains with the female only until the second week of incubation.

Young are precocial at hatching. They are able to leave the nest with the female less than 24 hours after hatching. They feed eagerly by dabbling and off the surface. Fledgling age is estimated at between 37 and 48 days. This period varies depending on factors such as habitat and climatic conditions, age and condition of female, and time of hatching.

Breeding season: Spring

Range eggs per season: 3 to 12.

Average time to hatching: 25 days.

Range fledging age: 37 to 48 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Average time to hatching: 23 days.

Average eggs per season: 10.

Females provide care of the offspring once they hatch. (Ehrlich et al., 1988)

Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Female)

  • Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, D. Wheye. 1988. "Birds of Stanford: American Wigeon" (On-line). Accessed 23 September 2002 at http://www.stanfordalumni.org/birdsite/text/species/American_Wigeon.html.
  • Mowbray, T. 1999. American Wigeon, No. 401. Pp. 1-32 in A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America. Washington, DC: The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union.
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Mating System: monogamous

Pair formation can begin with the arrival on wintering grounds. Breeding is not controlled strictly by photoperiod, but is also infleunced by habitat quality and food availability on the wintering grounds. Presumably the female selects the nest site, which is well concealed on dry ground and away from the water. Nests are typically found in areas of tall grasses and brush cover and in fairly close proximity to a food supply. They are constructed primarily of grasses and weed stems and lined with down. Incubation begins at the completion of the clutch and usually continues for an average of 25 days. The female spends almost 90% of the day on the nest; when the paired male is not accompanying the female in feeding, he spends the majority of his time on the water. He remains with the female only until the second week of incubation.

Young are precocial at hatching. They are able to leave the nest with the female less than 24 hours after hatching. They feed eagerly by dabbling and off the surface. Fledgling age is estimated at between 37 and 48 days. This period varies depending on factors such as habitat and climatic conditions, age and condition of female, and time of hatching.

Breeding season: Spring

Range eggs per season: 3 to 12.

Average time to hatching: 25 days.

Range fledging age: 37 to 48 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)

Average time to hatching: 23 days.

Average eggs per season: 10.

Females provide care of the offspring once they hatch. (Ehrlich et al., 1988)

Parental Investment: precocial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Female)

  • Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, D. Wheye. 1988. "Birds of Stanford: American Wigeon" (On-line). Accessed 23 September 2002 at http://www.stanfordalumni.org/birdsite/text/species/American_Wigeon.html.
  • Mowbray, T. 1999. American Wigeon, No. 401. Pp. 1-32 in A Poole, F Gill, eds. The Birds of North America. Washington, DC: The Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, PA, and The American Ornithologists' Union.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Anas americana

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 8 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

NNNNNNCCTTATCTTCGGGGCATGANCTGGAATAATTGGCACAGCACTCAGCCTGCTAATCCGCGCAGAACTAGGCCAACCAGGGACCCTCCTGGGCGACGACCAAATTTATAACGTGATCGTCACCGCTCACGCCTTTGTAATAATCTTCTTCATAGTAATGCCCATCATAATTGGGGGATTTGGCAACTGACTGGTCCCCCTAATAATCGGTGCCCCCGACATAGCATTCCCACGAATAAACAACATAAGCTTCTGACTCCTCCCGCCGTCATTCCTCCTACTACTCGCCTCATCCACCGTAGAAGCTGGCGCTGGCACAGGTTGAACCGTGTACCCACCCCTAGCAGGCAACCTGGCCCACGCCGGAGCCTCGGTAGACCTGGCTATCTTCTCACTTCACCTAGCCGGTGTCTCCTCCATCCTCGGAGCCATTAACTTCATTACCACGGCCATCAACATAAAACCCCCCGCACTCTCACAATACCAAACCCCACTTTTCGTTTGATCGGTCCTAATTACCGCCATCCTACTCCTCCTATCACTCCCCGTCCTCGCCGCCGGCATCACAATACTATTAACCGACCGAAACCTAAACACCACATTCTTTGACCCCGCCGGAGGAGGAGACCCAATCCTGTACCAACACCTATTTTGATTCTTTGGCCACCCAGAAGTCTATATCTTAATTCTC
-- end --

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Anas americana

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 8
Specimens with Barcodes: 8
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5B,N5N : N5B: Secure - Breeding, N5N: Secure - Nonbreeding

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5B,N5N : N5B: Secure - Breeding, N5N: Secure - Nonbreeding

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
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Human activity can potentially affect the American wigeon in many ways because it is a game bird and also a migratory species. Despite hunting pressures and habitat degredation, populations seem to be stable. However, in recent years there has been a slight decline in numbers because of habitat loss due to land use and change in climate in the Canadian prairie parklands. Restoration programs are working where habitat potential is the greatest and these efforts are forseen to improve the situation. General management objectives apply to the wigeon and they are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. (Mowbray, 1999; Bethke and Nudd, 1995)

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

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Human activity can potentially affect the American wigeon in many ways because it is a game bird and also a migratory species. Despite hunting pressures and habitat degredation, populations seem to be stable. However, in recent years there has been a slight decline in numbers because of habitat loss due to land use and change in climate in the Canadian prairie parklands. Restoration programs are working where habitat potential is the greatest and these efforts are forseen to improve the situation. General management objectives apply to the wigeon and they are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. (Mowbray, 1999; Bethke and Nudd, 1995)

US Migratory Bird Act: protected

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population Trend
Stable
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Uses

Comments: May damage cultivated crops (Bellrose 1976).

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Being a grazing duck, it tends to congregate in hay fields and sometimes golf courses, but no substantial negative effects are known.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Wigeons are hunted by people and make up a small percentage of the U.S. duck sport harvest. There is no significant commercial take of this species.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Being a grazing duck, it tends to congregate in hay fields and sometimes golf courses, but no substantial negative effects are known.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Wigeons are hunted by people and make up a small percentage of the U.S. duck sport harvest. There is no significant commercial take of this species.

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Wikipedia

American wigeon

The American wigeon (Anas americana), also American widgeon or baldpate, is a species of dabbling duck found in North America. This species is classified with the other wigeons in the dabbling duck genus Anas, which may be split, in which case wigeons could go into their old genus Mareca again. It is the New World counterpart of the Eurasian wigeon.

Description[edit]

Male in winter plumage in New Jersey, USA

The American wigeon is a medium-sized bird; it is larger than a teal, but smaller than a pintail. In silhouette, the wigeon can be distinguished from other dabblers by its round head, short neck, and small bill.[2] It is 42–59 cm (17–23 in) long, with a 76–91 cm (30–36 in) wingspan and a weight of 512–1,330 g (1.129–2.932 lb).[3][4][5] This wigeon has two adult molts per year and a juvenile molt in the first year, as well.[3]

The breeding male (drake) is a striking bird with a mask of green feathers around its eyes and a cream colored cap running from the crown of its head to its bill. This white patch gives the wigeon its other common name, baldpate (pate is another word for head). Their belly is also white.[6] In flight, drakes can be identified by the large white shoulder patch on each wing. These white patches flash as the birds bank and turn. In non-breeding (eclipse) plumage, the drake looks more like the female.[2]

The hens are much less conspicuous, having primarily gray and brown plumage. Both sexes have a pale blue bill with a black tip, a white belly, and gray legs and feet.[2] The wing patch behind the speculum is gray. They can be distinguished from most ducks, apart from Eurasian wigeon, by shape. However, that species has a darker head and all grey underwing. The head and neck coloring of the female is different as opposed to the Eurasian wigeon.[6] It nests on the ground, near water and under cover. It lays 6–12 creamy white eggs. Flocks will often contain American coots.[3]

The American wigeon is a noisy species, and in the field can often be identified by their distinctive calls. Drakes produce a three note whistle, while hens emit hoarse grunts and quacks.[2] The male whistle makes a whoee-whoe-whoe, whereas the female has a low growl qua-ack.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

It is common and widespread, breeding in all but the extreme north of Canada and Alaska and also in the Interior West through Idaho, Colorado, the Dakotas, and Minnesota, as well as eastern Washington and Oregon.[3][6] The conservation status of this bird is Least Concern.[1] The majority of the population breeds on wetlands in the Boreal Forest and subartic river deltas of Canada and Alaska. Although wigeon are found in each flyway, they are most numerous in the Pacific Flyway. Key wintering areas here include the Central Valley of California and Washington's Puget Sound. Farther east, the Texas Panhandle and the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Texas also support large numbers of wintering wigeon.[2]

This dabbling duck is migratory and winters farther south than its breeding range, in the southern half of the United States, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and the Mid-Atlantic coastal region,[3][6] and further south into Central America and northwestern South America.[7] It is a rare but regular vagrant to western Europe.[3]

In 2009, an estimated 2.5 million breeding wigeon were tallied in the traditional survey area—a level just below the 1955–2009 average. In recent decades, wigeon numbers have declined in the prairie-parkland region of Canada and increased in the interior and west coast of Alaska. The American wigeon is often the fifth most commonly harvested duck in the United States, behind the mallard, green-winged teal, gadwall, and wood duck.[2]

Behavior[edit]

Female and ducklings

The American wigeon is a bird of open wetlands, such as wet grassland or marshes with some taller vegetation, and usually feeds by dabbling for plant food or grazing, which it does very readily. While on the water, wigeon often gather with feeding coots and divers, and are known to grab pieces of vegetation brought to the surface by diving water birds. For this reason, they are sometimes called "poacher" or "robber" ducks. Wigeon also commonly feed on dry land, eating waste grain in harvested fields and grazing on pasture grasses, winter wheat, clover, and lettuce. Having a largely vegetarian diet, most wigeon migrate in the fall well before northern marshes begin to freeze.[2]

The American wigeon is highly gregarious outside of the breeding season and will form large flocks.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Anas americana". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "The American Wigeon". Ducks Unlimited. May–June 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Floyd, T. (2008). Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America. New York: Harper Collins. 
  4. ^ "American Wigeon". All About Birds. 
  5. ^ Dunning, John B., Jr., ed. (1992). CRC Handbook of Avian Body Masses. CRC Press. ISBN 978-0-8493-4258-5. 
  6. ^ a b c d Dunn, J.; Alderfer, J. (2006). National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America (5th ed.). 
  7. ^ Clements, James (2007). The Clements Checklist of the Birds of the World. Cornell University Press, Ithaca. 
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Occasional hybrids between A. AMERICANA and A. PENELOPE have been reported (AOU 1983). See Livezey (1991) for a phylogenetic analysis and classification (supergenera, subgenera, infragenera, etc.) of dabbling ducks based on comparative morphology.

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