American Wigeon are medium-sized ducks that are well adapted to life on land. Their feet are placed near their center of gravity in the middle of their bodies, making them less efficient at swimming but more comfortable walking on land.
Their short bills are effective at snipping vegetation and digging up plants, and they feed mostly on plant leaves and seeds. They often feed on agricultural land in Delta, including fields with Winter Cover Crops.
However, you may not always see them on farms because they do most of their feeding on farmland at night. Tens of thousands of wigeon spend their winter on British Columbia’s coast and dense flocks feeding on farms at night can dramatically overgraze hay and pasture grasses.
Photo by Rick Leche
In the summer they breed further inland and further north. Like many ducks and geese, young are not able to survive if they drink salty water, so most breeding happens in fresh water. Young feed mostly on insects, and switch their diet to include more plant material as they mature.
The males’ call is a high-pitched squeak or whistle, which sounds like “weep WEEP woo,” often heard when they are flying overhead. Sometimes Eurasian Wigeon, their cousins from across the ocean, can be seen with a flock of American Wigeon. Eurasian Wigeon males have rust coloured heads whereas American Wigeon males have green and grey heads, a good way to tell them apart.