15" from bill to tail.
American Wigeons are partial to
freshwater shallows and marshes and occur along exposed shorelines
and lakes. A medium-sized (48cm) duck, the American Wigeon has
grayish or brownish black plumage and a white belly. Breeding
males display a shiny, white crown offset by an iridescent-green
smudge flaring behind the eye. Breeding males display white wing
coverts (leading edges of the wings). Adult females and immature
birds display a speckled brown head that contrasts with the rusty
brown breast and flanks. An iridescent-green speculum (bright
swatch on the leading edges of the wings), a short, bluish bill
and dark gray legs are present in all plumages.
American Wigeons forage in both
freshwater and on land. In freshwater, they primarily feed on
the leafy parts of aquatic plants, aquatic insects, snails and
other aquatic invertebrates. They forage by picking food from
the surface of freshwater shallows (ponds and marshes). By "dabbling," (floating
on the water's surface and abruptly pivoting headfirst and downward
into the water while raising their hindquarters above water)
these ducks are able to reach submerged aquatic plants and animals
on the muddy bottom. On land, these ducks graze on grasses, grains
and seeds of open areas.
American Wigeon females build their
nests in wallowed out ground depressions (scrapes) on dryer portions
of their habitat. Concealed by high grass, the nest is filled
with dry grasses and plant stems. Lined with fine materials,
the soft nest is safe haven for the 6-12, 54mm, plain white eggs
of the clutch. The female alone incubates the clutch for 23-25
days as the pair-bond with the male lasts only through the first
or second week of incubation. As incubation progresses, additional
down is added to the nest to insulate the clutch. Young birds
fledge in 37-48 days post-hatching and are reared by the female.
If the nest is threatened, the female feigns injury to distract
the threat while the offspring scatter. When the young are well
hidden, the female flies away.
Breeding in the far north, these
ducks occur throughout central Alaska, most of Canada and southward
into the midwestern United States. They winter along the coasts
of the United States (Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico),
and south through Mexico, the Bahamas and northern South America.
Within the preserve, 1 American Wigeon was detected during the
Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve Bird Inventory in the
Yukon River Valley (YV) ecological unit, June 1999 and 2000.
(However, this number does not accurately reflect the density
of these ducks in the Preserve since inventory methods do not
adequately capture waterbirds. Many of the survey routes were
not along streams or watercourses).
The female American Wigeon makes
low quacking or harsh growling "waarrr" calls. A distinctive,
airy, kazoo-like whistle characterizes the call of the male, "wi-WIW-weew." .