Profile Wigeon     Literature page Wigeon
[order] Anseriformes

[order] Anseriformes | [family] Anatidae | [latin] Anas penelope | [UK] Wigeon | [FR] Canard siffleur | [DE] Pfeifente | [ES] Ánade Silbón | [IT] Fischione europeo | [NL] Smient

Smient determination

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This winter visitor from Siberia is a close relative of the American Wigeon. The male Eurasian Wigeon in breeding plumage has a salmon-colored breast, pale gray body, and black undertail coverts. His head is dark rufous with a yellowish forehead. The wing has a green speculum with white coverts (the white is absent on the female), much like the American Wigeon. Juveniles and males in eclipse plumage (from July to September) look like the female. Female Eurasian and American Wigeons appear very similar, but the female Eurasian lacks the black border at the base of the bill. The main features that distinguish the Eurasian Wigeon from the American Wigeon are the gray sides and the russet face-markings. The Eurasian Wigeon hybridizes occasionally with the American Wigeon, and these birds, which show a mixture of characteristics, are seen in Washington with regularity.

When breeding, concentrated in boreal and subarctic zones with slight overlap into temperate and fairly numerous occurrences, often sporadic, in steppe zone. Prefers shallow, open, broad, fresh waters, of medium quality, neither strongly eutrophic nor oligotrophic, with ample submerged or floating vegetation but without dense, emergent or marginal stands. Predominantly lowland, within continental climatic zone; tolerant of open woodland and preferring wooded to open tundra, but thinning out towards dense forest and mountains. Uses good nesting cover in coniferous or deciduous wooded areas, as well as steppes, both near and fairly distant from water. Avoidance of extreme arctic climates permits early summer occupancy of breeding grounds and early departure, with rapid return movement in early autumn.
Winter habitat mainly in oceanic climates, lowland and largely maritime, especially along coasts where shallow, fairly sheltered waters and extensive tracts of tidal mud, sand, or salt-marsh offer sustenance and security for gatherings. Freshwater and brackish lagoons, and tracts of flooded grassland also attractive, and may be used in preference to coastal waters.

Anas penelope breeds in northern Europe, and winters in coastal areas of the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and north-west Europe, which together probably hold >50% of its global population. Its European wintering population is very large
(>1,700,000 individuals), and underwent a moderate increase between 1970-1990. Although there were substantial declines in Spain and Azerbaijan during 1990-2000, wintering populations were stable or increased across the rest of Europe, and the species was probably stable overall.
Except for Scotland, where it is sedentary, in the European Union (12 Members States) it is only known as a passage migrant or wintering bird. The population wintering around the North Sea is totalling 1250000 individuals, and is definitely increasing. These birds originate from Scandinavia and European Russia. Normally they don’t move farther south as Bretagne, but during strong winters they reach Spain in large numbers. The population wintering in the Black Sea and Mediterranean regions is estimated at 560000 individuals, and is declining. These birds probably have a more eastern origin, and are less subjected to spectacular winter movements.

Almost entirely vegetarian, mainly leaves, stems, stolons, bulbils, and rhizomes; also some seeds and occasionally animal materials. Obtained on land, by grazing while walking; on water, from surface; less often, under water by immersing head and neck.
The foraging strategies of the Eurasian Wigeon include picking food from the surface of shallow water, grazing in upland areas, and feeding on vegetation brought up by coots and diving ducks.

This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 10,000,000 km². It has a large global population estimated to be 2,800,000-3,300,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2002). Global population trends have not been quantified, but the species is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern. [conservation status from birdlife.org]

Eurasian Wigeons are known to breed only in Europe and Asia, although they are likely to be found breeding in North America eventually. They nest on the ground under dense vegetation, usually near water. The nest is a shallow depression lined with grass and down. The female incubates 8 to 9 eggs for 24 to 25 days. The young leave the nest and head for water shortly after hatching. They find their own food, although the female continues to tend them until they fledge at 40 to 45 days.

This species is ighly migratory, except for some local resident populations in west Europe. A few resident populations exist Iceland and Scotland, but most winter Ireland and Britain. Smaller numbers reaching other North Sea countries, France, and Iberia. British breeders apparently mostly resident or make short south-west movements. Breeding populations of Fenno-Scandia and Russia migrate east to lower Yenisey basin and south to winter quarters in west and south-west Europe. Annually and very frequently wintering in Germany, Netherlands, Britain, Ireland, France, and to lesser extent Iberia. Those breeding west and central Siberia winter on Caspian and Black Seas. Also west to Mediterranean, especially Turkey, Greece, north Italy, and south France. Those reaching north Africa (notably Tunisia) are probably also from west-central Siberian population.
Moult migration reported from widely separated areas. Males leave breeding grounds early and move to moulting localities where they join the immature non-breeders. European moult gatherings are notably in Estonia, south Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands. Typically the species forms flocks in August. Mass departures from breeding areas occur in September, main arrivals in the winter quarters mostly in October-November. Departure from North and Black Seas from mid-March to early April, but earlier in mild winters.


  1. Measurements
  2. spanwidth min.: 71 cm
  3. spanwidth max.: 85 cm
  4. size min.: 42 cm
  5. size max.: 50 cm
  6. Breeding
  7. incubation min.: 24 days
  8. incubation max.: 25 days
  9. fledging min.: 40 days
  10. fledging max.: 45 days
  11. broods 1
  12. eggs min.: 7
  13. eggs max.: 9
  14. Conservation Status
  15. Smient status Least Concern
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