American Wigeon

Mareca americana

Male with green mask and white crown; hen with smudged eyes
Also called Baldpate for its white crown; mask may not look green depending on light
Hen always grayish brown with smudged eyes
Drake is colorful in flight
Drake displaying on wintering grounds in Rhode Island
Pairs form on wintering grounds; a different partner each year
An April honeymoon at Salter Grove before starting family up north
Hen builds nest, lays 3 to 13 eggs, raises brood
Drake leaves midway through incubation
Raft of wintering singles may include Eurasian Wigeon, which has red head
Baldies (males), brunettes (females) and a lone redhead (Eurasian Wigeon)
Green mask of American Wigeon drake compared with rufous head of Eurasian Wigeon, a rarer visitor
American Wigeon hen paired with Eurasian Wigeon drake
Hybrid offspring of American and Eurasian Wigeons

At Salter Grove, American Wigeons can be seen dabbling on both sides of the causeway from early December to early April.  There is ample opportunity to watch them in both North and South Coves as they engage in courtship behavior.   Mate selection generally occurs while American Wigeons are on their wintering grounds and by February, newly formed pairs can be seen mixed in with as yet unpaired individuals.

The American Wigeon breeds in wetlands near boreal forest and subarctic river deltas in Alaska and Canada.  It also nests in the northwestern states of Colorado, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington.  It winters south of its breeding grounds and can be found all the way to northwestern South America.

The male is striking with the brilliant green mask over the eyes and the white patch on its crown, giving rise to its other common name Baldpate.  The female is brown all over with a smudgy looking area around the eyes.  Occasionally, a raft of wintering American Wigeons may be punctuated by the bright rufous head of the Eurasian Wigeon.  Hybrids of the two species have been observed.

Most dabbling ducks feed on plant matter in shallow water but the American Wigeon will also feed in deeper water where it often steals food uprooted by other dabbling birds.  It is able to feed in agricultural fields and on lawns where its short but stout goose-like bill is adept in picking up waste grain or in prying loose grass roots.