American Wigeon

Mareca americana
Range Map

In olden days, we called the American Wigeon “Baldpate” because of their white crown. Earlier nomenclature listed these ducks in the genus Anas (A. americana). They breed mostly in western Canada and Alaska, but also in the northern tier of the western USA.

The American Wigeon has a shorter bill than other dabblers. We believe this to be an adaptation to help them harvest the plant food they prefer.

The calls made by these birds are wheezing, or whistling sounds. It is not unlike the calls of the whistling ducks. During most of the year, these ducks forage on plant material, but during breeding season, they take on a more varied diet that includes invertebrates prey, and more seeds and fruit.

While science does not list the population of these birds as threatened, their numbers have been dropping by about 2% per year for the past half century, resulting in a 65% reduction over that period. Drought and wet cycles affect the population, but loss of habitat from agricultural practices seems to be a powerful factor.

I’ve only met the American Wigeon on its wintering grounds in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. One day I hope to meet them on their breeding grounds.

Taxonomists regard the American Wigeon as monotypic (i.e. no subspecies).

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