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American Wigeon

Mareca americana

Length: 18 - 22 inches Wingspan: 30 - 35 inches Seasonality: Summer / Migrant
ID Keys: White forehead and crown, green eyestripe, blue-gray bill tipped in black.

American Wigeon - Mareca americanaAmerican Wigeon are also known as the "Baldpate" by many hunters, because of its white forehead and crown.  The American Wigeon spends much of their time foraging in and around aquatic environments, but they are also comfortable foraging on land, eating young plant shoots and seeds. They are also much more likely than most dabbling ducks to be found in deep water, where they sometimes harass other duck species and steal their food.


Prefers large inland marshes for breeding. Can be found in a variety of aquatic habitats during the winter and in migration, including ponds, lakes, rivers, fresh or saltwater marshes, and coastal estuaries.


Primarily plant material, and is comfortable feeding both on aquatic and terrestrial vegetation. This includes plants such as duckweed, fresh stems of herbaceous grasses, underwater aquatic vegetation, and seeds and roots of many plants. American Wigeons will also eat insects, insect larvae, and snails, particularly during the nesting season.  They have adapted well to a human presence and will feed on waste grain if available.


Uses a wide variety of foraging techniques, from tipping to submerge the head, picking food items from the water's surface, feeding on dry land, and stealing food from other waterfowl. They are more comfortable walking and feeding on land than some other waterfowl.


June and July in South Dakota. The nest site of an American Wigeon is on dry ground, often a surprisingly long distance from water or wetlands. It is located in a protected area on the ground, such as amongst tall vegetation. The nest is a small scrape on the ground, lined with grasses, other herbaceous vegetation, and down. The female lays between 4 and 12 eggs, and she alone incubates them. The eggs hatch after about 23 days. The young leave the nest soon after hatching and pursue food on their own, although the female will protect them.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click to access an interactive eBird map of American Wigeon sightings


A rather vocal species, American Wigeon males have a high, squeaky whistle that's vocalized in a number of situations, including in courtship and when disturbed. Females have a different quacking call.

1Click here to hear the quacking call of a female American Wigeon, recorded in Routt County, Colorado.

2Click here to hear the whistled vocalizations of a group of American Wigeon, recorded in King County, Washington.

3Click here to hear the calls of a male American Wigeon in flight, recorded in Quebec


Summers throughout most of Canada, Alaska, and the northern third of the United States.  Winters along the North American coasts, the southern third of the United States, and points south, including Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, and northern South America. 

Similar Species:

 Male is generally distinctive, if seen well. The more plainly patterned females could potentially be confused with other dabbling ducks.

Conservation Status:

Records over the last several decades (Christmas Bird Count, Breeding Bird Survey, etc.) show populations have been relatively stable. Their range has expanded eastward in recent decades. They are found across a very broad geographic area and are quite common in parts of their range. The IUCN considers the American Wigeon to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, American Wigeon

2) BirdWeb - American Wigeon

3) Audubon Guide-  American Wigeon

Photo Information:

May 15th, 2014 - Near Anchorage, Alaska -- Terry L. Sohl

Audio File Credits:

1Andrew Spencer, XC100899. Accessible at

2Bruce Lagerquist, XC404504. Accessible at

3Martin St-Michel, XC187408. Accessible at


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Range Map - American Wigeon
South Dakota Status: Common migrant and uncommon Summer resident throughout the state.  Rare to uncommon in winter.

Additional American Wigeon Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 American Wigeon 1 - Mareca americanaAmerican Wigeon 2 - Mareca americanaAmerican Wigeon 3 - Mareca americanaAmerican Wigeon 4 - Mareca americana