Mareca penelope (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Anseriformes > Anatidae
The male Wigeon is a pretty duck with his yellow forehead, contrasting chestnut head and neck, and pinks and greys of body plumage.
Our small breeding population is centred on the uplands and islands of northern Scotland and along the Pennine chain in England. The birds prefer small lochs with plenty of undisturbed upland vegetation nearby to feed the chicks.
In autumn, Britain & Ireland receive vast numbers of Wigeon from the breeding grounds located further north and this wintering population has increased significantly since 1983/84. The Wetland Bird Survey reveals a few widespread locations holding over 30,000 birds in winter.
Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the Wigeon
Wigeon identification is usually straightforward.
Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Wigeon, provided by xeno-canto contributors.
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Status and Trends
Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.
This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.
The Wigeon is best known to most UK birdwatchers as a winter visitor, especially to coastal marshes where it feeds in large flocks. However, small numbers bree,d mostly in Scotland and northern England. The mean number of pairs reported to the RBBP was 216 for the five-year period 2015–2019 but the species is under-reported and the recent and longer term trends are not known.
|UK winter population||-11% decrease (1995/96 to 2020/21)|
In winter, there are concentrations of Wigeon in the Northern Isles, the inner Moray Firth, parts of central Scotland, the Irish Sea coastal fringe, major river valleys in eastern England, estuaries of south and southeast England and the rivers, lakes and turloughs of the west midlands of Ireland. The main breeding areas are in the Pennines and in northern Scotland.
Occupied 10-km squares in UK
|No. occupied in breeding season||366|
|% occupied in breeding season||12|
|No. occupied in winter||1921|
|% occupied in winter||64|
European Distribution Map
Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK
|% change in range in breeding season (1968–72 to 2008–11)||+29.3%|
|% change in range in winter (1981–84 to 2007–11)||+25.4%|
Wigeons are common winter visitors, recorded on up to 20% of lists but scarce in summer when there is a small over-summering population and small numbers breed.
Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.
An overview of year-round movements for the whole of Europe can be seen on the EuroBirdPortal viewer.
Lifecycle and body size information about Wigeon, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.
View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report
|Maximum Age from Ringing||34 years 7 months 0 days (set in 1996)|
|Typical Lifespan||3 years with breeding typically at 1 year|
|Wing Length||Adults||259.4±10.4 | Range 242–275mm, N=4667|
|Juveniles||253.5±9.6 | Range 239-268mm, N=867|
|Males||265.8±6.8 | Range 255–276mm, N=2820|
|Females||249.6±6.5 | Range 239–260mm, N=1846|
|Body Weight||Adults||749±85.65 | Range 610–890g, N=4171|
|Juveniles||676±86.3537 | Range 540–820g, N=702|
|Males||780±77.03 | Range 660–905g, N=2513|
|Females||700±75.02 | Range 580–825g, N=1657|
Feather measurements and photos on featherbase
|Field Codes||2-letter: WN | 5-letter code: WIGEO | Euring: 1790|
For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name
Interpretation and scientific publications about Wigeon from BTO scientists.
Causes of change
The trends in the European flyway population since 1988 are believed to have been mostly caused by climatic effects, which influence breeding productivity and may also have a marginal effect on overwinter survival (Fox et al. 2016). Decreases in Equisetum stands on breeding lakes have also been suggested as a potential driver of declines in Sweden and Finland (Pöysa et al. 2017). In the absence of UK-specific information (or knowledge about the UK trends), it is not known whether climatic or habitat conditions or other factors may be influencing UK breeding population changes.
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