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American Wigeon


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A common and increasingly abundant duck, the American Wigeon breeds in northwestern North America and is found throughout the rest of the continent in migration and in winter. Its small bill and the male's white forehead, as well as certain aspects of nesting and feeding behavior, distinguish this species from other dabbling ducks.


Typical Voice

Adult Description

  • Medium-sized duck.
  • Male with white crown.
  • Green face patch.
  • Large white patch in wings.
  • Black rear end bordered by white.

Male Description

Breeding (Alternate) Plumage: White or cream-colored forehead and forecrown and broad dark-green patch extending from behind eye to nape. Bill is bluish-gray with black tip. Cheeks and chin grayish. Breast, sides, and back are pinkish-brown. Rear flanks show a white patch; undertail coverts are black.
Eclipse (Basic) Plumage: Variable amounts of white and green on head. Undertail coverts are variably black, with some white. In all plumages, male shows white patch on upper wing, and dark-green speculum.

Female Description

Head appears grayish overall, with finely-blended white and dusky streaks. Breast and flanks are pale reddish-brown; mantle is grayish-brown with some buff barring. Bill is small and grayish, with a black tip.

Immature Description

Similar to adult female.

Range Map Help

American Wigeon Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Breeding male

    American Wigeon

    Breeding male
    • Compact, small-billed duck
    • Bright white forehead contrasts with iridescent green facial stripe
    • Silvery gray overall
    • Silvery gray bill with black tip
    • © Tony Varela, March 2012
  • Female/juvenile

    American Wigeon

    • Stocky, small-billed duck
    • Pale gray bill with black tip
    • Gray, finely-streaked head
    • Rusty brown body
    • © Ron Kube, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, September 2009
  • Juvenile

    American Wigeon

    • Compact and small-billed
    • Grayish head blends into warmer brown body
    • Pale gray bill with black tip developing with age
    • © Bill Thompson, Anchorage, Alaska, August 2009
  • Breeding male

    American Wigeon

    Breeding male
    • Compact duck with small, black-tipped, silvery gray bill
    • Bright white forehead and crown
    • Iridescent green stripe behind eye
    • Black undertail
    • © Bill Thompson, Anchorage, Alaska, May 2010
  • Adult female

    American Wigeon

    Adult female
    • Compact, small-billed duck
    • Elongated head
    • Pale silver/gray bill with black tip
    • Finely-streaked gray head with warmer brown body
    • © Bill Thompson, Anchorage, Alaska, May 2010

Similar Species

  • Breeding male

    Eurasian Wigeon

    Breeding male
    • Similar in shape to American Wigeon, but breeding male distinctive
    • Bright rufous head with buffy-white crown stripe
    • Silver-gray flanks and back
    • © Danny Bales, Merritt Island NWR, Florida, December 2012

Similar Species

  • Eurasian Wigeon is closely related and very similar. Breeding male Eurasian Wigeon has dark rufous head and buffy forehead, with no green stripe, and grayish flanks and back. Female, eclipse male, and immature very difficult to distinguish; the best mark is the color of the axillaries ("armpits"), which are gray on Eurasian Wigeon and white on American Wigeon.



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