American Wigeon (Anas)
When the drake is at rest, the white crown of the full plumaged bird provides a distinctive mark, which gives the bird its common name (baldpate). Wigeons fly rapidly with fairly deep wing beats, and their flight is more erratic than the other puddle ducks except the teal. They have short bills, proportionately narrow wings, and moderately long, wedge-shaped tails. The most recognizable feature in flight is the white rectangular shoulder patch of the drake. The patch is indistinct in the hen. Both the drake and hen have elliptical white bellies that are sharply outlined by the brown chest and sides. The white underparts are similar to the gadwall and the wood duck. A green band extends from the eye to the back of the head. The pinkish-brown breast and sides are separated from the black undertail coverts (small clusters of feathers) by white flank feathers. The head and neck are buff streaked with black except for the white crown and green head stripe of the adult drake. The feet and legs of both sexes are blue-gray. The average length of the American wigeon is 19 to 20.5 inches.
Average Weight Range
Mature American wigeons range in weight from 1.5 to 2 pounds.
Nests are set up on dry land in clumps of sedges, rushes, brush or weeds. Nests are normally from 16 to 50 yards away from water but can be 100 yards or more. The nest is a slight depression lined with grass or other herbaceous vegetation and down. Wigeons incubate from 23 to 25 days and yield clutches of about 9 white to cream-colored eggs. The annual molting process in which both sexes change plumage occurs after breeding. The ducks are unable to fly for about 45 to 60 days, and they become secretive and hide in cover to avoid predators. The molt takes place in large marshes in or near the breeding area.
Wigeons prefer stems and leafy parts of aquatic plants. They also consume the seeds of marsh and aquatic plants like smartweed and wild millet. Wigeons will frequently take plant food from the bills of diving ducks like the redhead.
The wigeon breeds from the tundra of North America south through the Dakotas and the intermountain marshes into Wyoming, Utah, and Oregon. It winters from New England and British Columbia south to Central America and the West Indies.
American wigeons inhabit river deltas, marshes, intermountain marshes, mountain valleys and plateaus.
Common Hunting Methods
American wigeons are harvested using many different types of shotgun. The three popular methods of hunting puddle ducks are pass shooting, jump shooting and decoying. The methods are frequently combined during a hunt. Scouting is essential to determine the ducks active and inactive periods and give the hunter the advantage of being in the right spot for success. Ducks typically fly in the morning and evening, so these are good times to decoy and pass-shoot. They tend to relax around midday making jump shooting more advantageous, especially during sunny days.
Practice the duck calls. The common calls are the Hail Call, the Greeting Call, the Feeding Call and the Comeback Call. Decoys should be used and are made of cedar, cork, foam or plastic. The cedar and cork are more expensive. The amount of decoys and the type of spread used will depend on location. Avid duck hunters usually use a retrieving dog.
Keen eyesight and fast, strong flying ability make a duck hunt challenging. The fact that the best hunts usually take place in less than favorable weather conditions adds to the challenge. Ducks are harvested for their tasty meat and their beautiful mounts.
The frequent call of the drake wigeon in flight consists of three whistling, piping notes with the middle note being the highest. The pintail has a similar call, but it is briefer and evenly pitched.
Puddle ducks, also known as dabblers, are in a group that tips up the tail when feeding as they stretch downward to find food.
They also have large, powerful wings for vertical take-off, and their legs are positioned near the center of the body for easier movement on land.