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!
In flight you can see the their white bellies. The males have distinctive large white wing patches.
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 breed in the UK and most of these do so in Scotland.
The North Pool and the Saltmarsh at Portbury Wharf are home to big flocks of Wigeon. This is one of the birds we count regularly over the winter so we can compare the numbers over the coming years. So far:
They have normally returned north by March!
They 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.
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. Big flocks are constantly whistling to each other!
“Eurasian Wigeon (Anas penelope)” from xeno-canto by Stuart Fisher. Genre: Anatidae.