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< >  Anas penelope - Eurasian wigeon (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

European wigeon
Europeon widgeon
Pfeifente (German)
Canard siffleur (French)
Siffleur d’Europe (French)
Silbón Europeo (Spanish)
Pato Europeo (Spanish)
Mareca penelope
Smiente (Dutch)
Bläsand (Swedish)

Names for newly-hatched

Duckling, downy.

Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases


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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B1, B2, B3, B5, B8, B19, B25, B26, B27.

Other references:

Aviculture references:
B7, B29, B30, B31, B40, B94, B95, B96, B108, B128.w1 B128.w2).
D1, D8

(UK Contacts)

(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

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Aviculture information


General Information:
  • Dabbling Ducks are generally hardy, easy to maintain and easy to breed. Shelter may be required by some of the smaller species in winter. They should be provided with cover (including marginal pond cover) and loafing areas as well as water. A pen which is 50% water is suggested. The water may be shallow (i.e. no more than two feet deep is required), and muddy areas for dabbling in are also appreciated. These ducks are generally good in mixed collections, although the smaller and quieter species may be bullied. Territorial disputes between ducks of the same species may be avoided by keeping only one pair of each species in an enclosure, unless the area is very large. For a single pair of ducks a pen are of 50 to 100 square metres, depending on the size of duck, should be provided.
  • A diet based on wheat and pellets is suggested, with maintenance pellets changed to breeders pellets for the breeding season. Bread and greenfood are also appreciated. Grit should always be available, with soluble grit (e.g. oystershell grit) as a calcium source when breeding.
  • Most species are ground nesters and both close ground cover and ground level nest boxes should be provided. Hand-rearing is generally preferred, as these ducks are generally poor parents in captive conditions, particularly in enclosures shared with other waterfowl. These ducks are prone to hybridization, particularly with closely related species, which should be kept apart from one another.
  • Wigeon are grazing species and should be provided with a sward of short grass, with extra green food provided if sufficient grass is not available.

(B7, B29, B30, B40, B94, B128.w1, D1)

Species-specific information:

  • Eurasian wigeon are winter-hardy, non-aggressive, and suitable for a mixed collection with a good grazing area and large water areas; they should also be provided with also cover and a loafing area. Feed with wheat, pellets, greenfood, grass, bread: good grazing is essential, and extra greenfood in the spring for breeding.
  • These ducks are fairly easy to breed; they require good ground cover for nesting and may also use a ground-level box. They lay mainly end of April to June. They may incubate if undisturbed, but are at risk from predators including hedgehogs. Ducklings are not difficult to rear; suggested feed duckweed, finely chopped grass, aquatic insects and water plants in addition to rearing feed.
  • Readily hybridise with Anas americana - American wigeon - should not be kept in same enclosure; also frequently hybridise with other Anas spp. and hybridisation has also been reported with Aix sponsa - Wood duck, Aythya fuligula - Tufted duck, Netta rufina - Red-crested pochard, Melanitta nigra - Black scoter.

(B7, B29, B31, B40, B94, B96, B97, B108, B128.w2,B129).

Aviornis UK Ringing Scheme recommended average ring size: J 9.0mm (D8).

Individual Techniques linked in Wildpro

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length 17-21 inches, 43-54cm (B3); 45-51cm (B1).
Adult weight General 415-970g (B1)
Male 465-970g average 720g (B3); mean 1.6 lbs. (B8).
Female 415-800g average 640g (B3); mean 1.4 lbs. (B8).
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate --

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Adult Bill Male Silver-grey with black nail.
Variations (If present) Female grey with black nail.
Eyes (Iris) Male Brown.
Variations(If present) --
Juvenile Bill Silver-grey with black nail.
Eyes (Iris) Brown.

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Adult Male Dark grey.
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Dark grey.

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Adult MaleClick Ilustration for full-page view Head and neck chestnut, black-flecked, with yellow-buff forehead and crown, blackish chin and throat. Breast pinkish, flanks and upperparts grey finely vermiculated with black. Tail and tail-coverts black, abdomen and sides of body behind flanks white.

Wings have tertials elongated, pointed, black with white edging, primaries and their coverts grey-brown, speculum formed by secondaries: glossy green, shading to black ends; coverts white with black tips to greater coverts.

Variations (If present)Click Illustration for full-page view Female: Variable rufous-brown to grey-brown. Head and neck palest with dark flecking, flanks medium brown with paler feather edges, upperparts darker. Abdomen white. Primaries and their coverts dark grey-brown, secondaries greenish black (duller than male), with white tips, coverts brown with pale feather tips, greater coverts narrow black tips, white subterminally.

Eclipse: Similar to female but richer chestnut brown and retains wing pattern.

Juvenile Similar to female but duller, secondaries blackish.

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

General: Upperparts brown (very dark crown and back), face reddish, small dark streak behind eye, underparts and spots on wings and sides buffish.
Bill: Dark grey.
Feet: Dark grey.

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Reproductive Season

Time of year Begins April/May.
No. of Clutches --

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Nest placement and structure

On the ground, hidden in vegetation, with down lining.

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average 8-9 (B1, B8).
Range 6-12 (B1); 6-16 (B8).
Egg Description Cream or pale buff. Size: 55 x 39mm, weight: 44g.

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24-25 days (B1, B8).

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40-45 days (B1); 40-50 days (B8).

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Sexual Maturity

Males One, occasionally two years old.
Females One, occasionally two years old.

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Feeding Behaviour

Adults Grazes, also dabbles on water surface, head-dips in shallows.
Newly-hatched --

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Parental Behaviour

Nest-building Nests as solitary pairs; sometimes in small groups on islands.
Incubation By female only, although male may stay near during incubation.
Newly-hatched Tended by female only and brooded when small.

Female leaves brood when fledged.

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Social Behaviour

Intra-specific Gregarious except when nesting.
Inter-specific Sometimes flock with other species.

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Sexual Behaviour

Monogamous seasonal pair bonds.

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Predation in Wild


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Activity Patterns

Winter flocks roost on undisturbed sites - sandbars, at sea, open lakes etc.
Circadian Crepuscular feeding pattern when breeding. More variable in winter as dependent on tides and weather.

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Natural Diet


Mainly vegetarian: leaves, stems, roots and seeds of grasses, sedges, aquatic plants (pondweeds) and wigeon grass important, also algae, eelgrass, grasses. Cockles and insects also taken.

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

  • Iceland, northern Europe, northern Asia.

  • In London: In the London Area, "common winter visitor, with occasional summer records." There may be 2,000 or more individuals in this area during the winter months of December and January, but few in Inner London (e.g. in 2000, a single record at Lambeth Bridge in October). (J322.65.w1)


  • Mostly migrate to lower latitudes for winter western and central Europe, Mediterranean Basin, Middle East, India, South East Asia, Japan.
  • British population sedentary.
  • Small numbers to Atlantic coast of North America.
Occasional and Accidental
  • Occasionally breeds in Faeroes, Iceland, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Czechoslovakia, Rumania, Italy.

  • Accidental to Jan Mayen, Bear Island, Spitsbergen, Kuwait, Rio de Oro, Azores, Madeira.



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Shallow freshwater marshes, lakes, and lagoons in open forest/scattered trees.

Winter: coastal marshes, fresh and brackish lagoons, sheltered coasts e.g. estuaries, bays.

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Intraspecific variation


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Conservation Status

Wild Population -

Abundant and stable.

General Legislation
  • This species is listed on Schedule 2 - Part I (Birds which may be killed or taken outside the close season, 1 February to 31 August except where indicated otherwise: Notes on the revised schedules state "NOTE: The close season for ducks and geese when below high water mark is 21 February to 31 August") of the LUK2 - Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 of the United Kingdom. (W5.Oct01)
  • This species is listed on Schedule 3 - Part 3 (Birds which may be sold alive at all times if ringed and bred in captivity: Notes on the revised schedules state "Birds which may be sold dead from 1 September to 28 February (NB: It is illegal to offer for sale at any time of the year any wild goose, moorhen, gadwall or goldeneye, although they are legitimate quarry species outside the close season)) of the LUK2 - Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 of the United Kingdom. (W5.Oct01)
CITES listing CITES III in Ghana.
Red-data book listing Listing not yet included.
Threats Habitat loss to drainage, and hunting.

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Captive Populations

Common in collections, particularly in Europe.

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