Grays Harbor Birds — Eurasian Wigeon

If you look closely at a large gathering of American Wigeons, you will most likely find one or two Eurasian Wigeons tucked in among them.

These visitors from Siberia are not uncommon in our waters, mingling with their cousin, the American Wigeon; it just takes time to sort through all to find those few, if you are lucky. The male in breeding plumage is (to my mind) a tad gaudy, but in an elegant way; lots of colors, but rich colors. It all works in nature. Here is some more information about these beautiful ducks.

Size: Both sexes are between 16.5 to 20.5 inches in length, with a wingspan of 32 inches, and weighing 1.5 pounds.

General Description: The Eurasian Wigeon has two features to distinguish him from his American cousin; his gray sides and dark russet face-markings. He has a salmon-colored breast, white belly, black under-tail coverts (the feathers under the tail) and a black rear-end, pale gray sides, and a yellowish streak running down his forehead to the base of his bill. The extended wings flash a green speculum, and a large patch of white. The females, juveniles, and males in non-breeding plumage look alike in their mottled browns with a white belly.

Habitat: Eurasian Wigeons are found in marshes, fields, ponds, lakes, and bays.

Behavior: In North America, these dabbling ducks can usually be found in large flocks of American Wigeons, feeding off the surface of shallow water, grazing in open fields like geese, even snatching the plant material from diving ducks. They are a noisy duck, too, with the piercing whistle of the male and the grunting growl of the female.

Diet: The Eurasian Wigeon will eat larvae and pupae found under rocks while grazing, insects, small fish, snails, crab, plant material, and seeds.

Nesting: So far the Eurasian Wigeon is known to only breed in Europe and Asia, but they may already be breeding somewhere in North America. They will find a shallow depression under cover on the ground near water, and line it with grass and down. The female incubates eight to nine eggs for 24 to 25 days. The young leave the nest shortly after hatching, heading for the water. They are able to find their own food, but the female will tend to them until fledging at 40 to 45 days.

Migration Status: The ducks we see out here on the west coast most likely are from Siberia and Iceland where they breed. They migrate to the coasts, including south as far as Baja, and into the gulf coast.

Conservation Status: This duck is rated a species of least concern, that is, it isn’t in any danger. It is not known if that is due to more being reported or if they are increasing in population.

When and Where to Find on Grays Harbor: I have seen both species of wigeons up at the cooling ponds at the Satsop Power Plant.


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