American Wigeons, Mareca americana
American Wigeons can be found in a variety of wetland habitats, including marshes, ponds, lakes, rivers, and estuaries. They have a wide distribution across North America, breeding in the northern regions, including Alaska and Canada, and parts of the northern United States. During the non-breeding season, they migrate to wintering grounds in the southern United States, Mexico, and parts of Central America.
Adult males have a distinctive plumage, with a creamy-white forehead and crown, a green patch behind the eye, a gray-blue bill, and a chestnut breast. Females have a mottled brown plumage for camouflage, resembling other dabbling ducks.
American Wigeons are dabbling ducks that feed primarily on plant material. They consume a variety of aquatic vegetation, grasses, sedges, and agricultural crops such as grains and grass seeds. They also eat insects, small crustaceans, and mollusks. American Wigeons forage by upending in shallow water and also by grazing on land, often in the company of other waterfowl.
One notable feature of American Wigeons is their whistling vocalization, which gives them their nickname of “baldpate” due to the sound resembling a whistle. Males produce a series of whistling calls during courtship and while in flight, often creating a distinctive sound in flocks.
During the breeding season, American Wigeons nest in grassy or marshy areas near water. The female selects a nest site on the ground, often concealed among vegetation or in elevated areas to protect from flooding. The nest is a shallow depression lined with plant material and down feathers. They may also use abandoned nests of other waterfowl species.
The female American Wigeon typically lays a clutch of 7-9 pale buff to greenish eggs. Incubation, which lasts for about 23-25 days, is primarily undertaken by the female. Once the eggs hatch, the precocial ducklings leave the nest and are led by the female to nearby water. The female provides guidance and protection, while the ducklings feed on small invertebrates, seeds, and vegetation.
American Wigeon ducklings fledge within 40-45 days after hatching. The exact timing may vary depending on environmental conditions and food availability.
During the non-breeding season, they undertake migrations, moving to wintering grounds in the southern parts of their range. They can be found in a variety of wetland habitats during winter, including marshes, ponds, and coastal areas.
American Wigeons are known for their sociable nature and their inclination to associate with other waterfowl species. They often form mixed flocks and can be seen feeding and resting in close proximity to other ducks and geese.