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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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  • photo by photo by Brent J. Gale
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by Graham Peters 

Well known to waterfowlers for their erratic yet agile flight and raucous whistling, American wigeon have many attributes that make them a pleasure to observe and hunt. These medium-size dabblers are widely distributed throughout North America, but are not especially abundant anywhere except in certain migration and wintering areas. According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) estimates, wigeon ranked eighth in abundance in 2010 behind mallards, blue-winged teal, scaup, shovelers, pintails, green-winged teal and gadwalls, respectively. 

Many aspects of wigeon breeding biology remain poorly understood because the birds typically nest in remote areas at low densities. Along with pintails, they nest farther north than any other dabbling ducks. Their primary breeding range extends from western Alaska to Hudson Bay in the north to the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) and U.S. Intermountain West in the south. In recent decades, wigeon have expanded their breeding range eastward into Ontario, Québec and Atlantic Canada.
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