Mareca penelope (Linnaeus, 1758) WN WIGEO 1790
Family: Anseriformes > Anatidae

Wigeon, Edmund Fellowes

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.


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.


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

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK


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.

Weekly occurence of Wigeon from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


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.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Wigeon ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


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


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Glas-lach
Welsh: Chwiwell
Catalan: ànec xiulador comú
Czech: hvízdák eurasijský
Danish: Pibeand
Dutch: Smient
Estonian: viupart
Finnish: haapana
French: Canard siffleur
German: Pfeifente
Hungarian: fütyülo réce
Icelandic: Rauðhöfðaönd
Irish: Rualacha
Italian: Fischione
Latvian: (baltvederis), švukškis
Lithuanian: eurazine cyple
Norwegian: Brunnakke
Polish: swistun (zwyczajny)
Portuguese: piadeira
Slovak: kacica hvizdárka
Slovenian: žvižgavka
Spanish: Silbón europeo
Swedish: bläsand
Folkname: Whistler, Half Duck


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.

Links to more information from ConservationEvidence.com

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