Contact us at

January – What to look out for

Happy New Year!

Although it is a shiny new start to the year, sadly we are in another lockdown . . .

. . . but our winter birds are still flying free along our coast and on the reserve.

This month I thought we would concentrate on one species of bird which is on the reserve in big numbers at the moment. There are a number of different birds that visit us in the winter and you can find out more about them on our Winter Birds page.

We are going to look at just one of these in more detail:


Male wigeon Male and female wigeon

The drake (male) Wigeon is a really handsome duck. His chestnut head has a bright golden streak running from the top of his bill over his crown, which stands out when you get a good view of him in the sunlight.

The female is less colourful, but still has rufous brown sides and smart black wing feathers and a white tummy.

Wigeon have small bills and a steep forehead, which gives them an attractive “baby-face” look. They are one of the prettier ducks!

Wigeon over roe deer on Portbury Wharf salt marsh


In flight you can see the wigeons’ white bellies. The males have distinctive large white wing patches.

When and where to see wigeon

From October, our estuaries and wetlands fill up with tens of thousands of them flying in from their breeding grounds in Iceland, Scandinavia and northern Russia to take advantage of our milder weather. Only a few wigeon breed in the UK and most of these do so in Scotland.

The North Pool and the Saltmarsh at Portbury Wharf are usually home to big flocks of Wigeon in the winter. The graph show shows the numbers on the North Pool build up each winter, though the numbers this year have not been as high as the previous two years. Note that the count for January 2021 has not yet been included.

All our Wigeon have normally returned north by March!

You can find more graphs of our counts on the Monitoring page – click here.



Wigeon are a grazing duck. They usually feed while walking on land, nibbling grass and other vegetation in wet fields or eating seeds and algae in the saltmarsh.

Wigeon grazing
Wigeon grazing on Portbury Wharf salt marsh
The Whistling Duck!

One of the best sounds on the reserve in mid-winter is the whistling call of the Wigeon. The best place to hear it is from either the Tower Hide or the North Pool Hide next door. Big flocks of Wigeon are constantly whistling to each other!


“Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)” from xeno-canto by Stuart Fisher. Genre: Anatidae.

2 Comments on “January – What to look out for

  1. Really interesting post and informative and easy-to-read website, thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.