The American Wigeon is one of the most common western ducks; the male's characteristic, wheezy laugh is one of the wetland's main voices in the Rocky Mountains. The American Wigeon is generally vegetarian. Although it often dabbles for food, nothing seems to please a wigeon more than wild celery and other pond-bottom plants. Unfortunately for this bird, these plants grow far too deep for a dabbling duck. Instead, pirating wigeons often steal these succulent plants when accomplished divers, such as Canvasbacks, scaups and Redheads, return to the surface with their bottom-dwelling food. When not harassing diving ducks for their lunch, American Wigeons are commonly observed grazing on shore. The American Wigeon's bright white crown and forehead, (in the male) has led some people to call it 'Baldplate.'
I.D.: General: large, white wing patch; cinnamon breast and flanks; white belly; gray bill with a black tip; green speculum. Male: white forehead; green swipe running back from each eye. Female: grayish head; brown underparts.
Size: L 18-23 in. (46-58 cm).
Range: fairly common breeder and resident in the Rockies south of Glacier NP; common migrant and uncommon summer resident in the Canadian Rockies.
Habitat: shallow wetlands, lake edges and ponds in the montane and the lower subalpine.
Nesting: always on dry ground, often far from water; nest is well concealed in tall vegetation and is built with grass, leaves and down; female incubates the white eggs for 23-25 days.
Feeding: dabbles and tips up for aquatic leaves and the stems of pondweeds; also grazes and uproots young shoots in fields; infrequently eats invertebrates.
Voice: Male: nasal whistle, whee WHEE wheew, frequently repeated. Female: soft, seldom heard quack.
Similar Species: Gadwall: lacks the large, white wing patch; male has pure black hindquarters.