People passionate about nature

American Wigeon

Above: Male American Wigeon (photo by Christian Artuso)

What Does It Look Like?

Smaller in size than a Mallard, the elegant American Wigeon is a mid-sized dabbling duck with a short, pale, black-tipped bill.  Breeding males have a grizzly brown-grey head and neck.  The rounded head is topped by a whitish to buffy “cap” and a green stripe runs behind the eye and down the nape.  The body is cinnamon in colour, with white patches on the side of the rump and black undertail feathers.  In flight, males display white patches on the upperwings, green secondary flight feathers and white underwing patches. Adult females and juveniles are a warmer brown overall and have a diffuse dark mark around the eye.  

Above: American Wigeon pair (photo by Christian Artuso)

Does It Migrate?

The species winters from Alaska to Panama and eastward through the southern United States; also in much of Mexico and northern Carribbean islands.

Where Does It Live?

Breeding occurs from Alaska to Manitoba, and eastward to the Atlantic provinces (but is more prevalent west of Manitoba); the breeding range in the US includes most of the interior western states.  The American Wigeon breeds in a wide variety of wetlands, such as shallow ponds, sloughs, prairie potholes, boreal marshes, lakes and tundra pools. 

Above: American Wigeon pair (photo by Christian Artuso)

Where Can I See It?

Migratory populations may be found in spring (late April/May) and fall (September/October) at places such as Oak Hammock & Delta marshes and Whitewater Lake.


Breeding Bird Survey data show continuing declines through the Prairie provinces but there are no current conservation plans.

Did You Know?

Females nest on the ground in dry fields or grasslands where there is plenty of tall nesting cover, sometimes as far away as 400 meters from the shoreline.


Written by Deanna Dodgson