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Banding Together for Waterfowl

Understanding Waterfowl: Ways of the Wigeon

These fascinating ducks have many characteristics and behaviors that set them apart
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According to USFWS estimates, wigeon had a breeding population of 2.4 million birds in the traditional survey area in 2010, similar to the previous year's estimate and the 1955–2009 average. In recent decades, wigeon have increased in some portions of their breeding range and declined in others. Their breeding grounds can be divided into three major components: the Canadian PPR, Canada's western boreal forest, and Alaska. In 1971, 1.6 million wigeon were surveyed on the Canadian prairies. 
WIGEON OF THE WORLD Three species of wigeon—American, Eurasian, and Chiloe—are among the world's 64-member Anatini tribe, collectively known as the dabbling ducks. Based on their morphology (physical characteristics) and behavior, wigeon are most closely related to gadwalls, falcated ducks, and Cape teal. Each of these wigeon species has a similar syrinx (the vocal organ in birds), downy plumage as ducklings, and adult plumage. 

As its name suggests, the Eurasian wigeon is found across Europe and Asia. These colorful birds appear to be arriving on this continent's shores in increasing numbers, especially in the Pacific Flyway, offering waterfowlers an opportunity to bag one of these rare trophies. The Chiloe wigeon is found in southern South America.

By 2006 that number had fallen to 500,000 birds—a 70 percent decline. During the same period, pintail populations in the Canadian PPR declined by 60 percent. Wigeon numbers have also declined in Canada's western boreal forest, although not by as much as on the prairies. Fortunately, much of the wigeon decline in Canada has been offset by increases in Alaska. In 1955, fewer than 50,000 wigeon were counted in the state. Today that number approaches 1 million birds. Without this dramatic increase in Alaska, today's continental wigeon population would be less than half that of 1955. 

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