Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

American wigeon
Anas americana

 

Taxonomy
Occurence in Illinois
Status
Habitat associations
Guilds
Food-habits
Environmental associations
Life history
Management practices
References


TAXONOMY

 

  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Anseriformes
  • Family: Anatidae
  • Genus: Anas
  • Species: Anas americana
  • Authority: Gmelin

Comments on taxonomy:
For a period was classified as mareca americana (gmelin) *02,03,09* but is now classified under original name *05,06*. Additional common names include: baldpate, widgeon, green-headed widgeon, bald head, bald face, bald crown, white-belly, poacher, wheat duck *03*, and gray duck *05*. Baldpate is very commonly used *02,03,05*.

 


OCCURENCE IN ILLINOIS

Common migrant. Uncommon winter resident in south and central. Occasional winter resident in north. Rare summer (nonbreeding) resident *23*.

 


STATUS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories
Forest Service Categories: S = recommended for regional sensitive status, F = forest listed species, M = management indicator species

Federal Status:

Endangered Threatened Proposed for listing
Candidate for proposal Recovery plan approved Recovery plan received (USFWS)
Recovery plan in preparation Under notice of review Delisted
Migratory EPA indicator Forest Serv.- Shawnee species

State Status:

Endangered Threatened Proposed

Other:

Game Furbearer Nongame protected
Sportfish Commercial Pest None of the above

 


HABITAT ASSOCIATIONS

Items in bold indicate applicable categories

General habitat:

Unknown Terrestrial Aquatic Riparian

USFS timber inventory forest size class:

Unknown Unstocked Seedling Sapling
Seedling/sapling Pole Mature Over mature

Land use and land cover:

Unknown   Urban Residential
Commercial
Industrial
Transportation, communication
Complex industrial/commercial
Mixed
Other
Agricultural Crop, pasture
Orchards, groves, nurseries
Feedlot
Other
Rangeland Herbaceous
Shrub and brush
Mixed
Forestland Deciduous
Evergreen
Mixed
Water Stream
Lake
Reservoir
Bay
Wetland Forest
Non-forest
Barren Salt flat
Beach
Sand
Rock
Mine
Transit
Mix

 


Forest cover types: Unknown.

Associated tree species: No records.

 

National wetland inventory classifications:

SystemSubsystemClassSubclassWater regime modifiersWater chemistry
Lacustrine Littoral Emergent vegetation Persistent
Nonpersistent
Permanent nontidal Freshwater
Lacustrine Littoral Open water of unknown bottom type   Permanent nontidal Freshwater
Palustrine   Emergent vegetation Persistent
Nonpersistent
Permanent nontidal Freshwater
Palustrine   Open water of unknown bottom type   Permanent nontidal Freshwater
Riverine Unknown perennial Open water of unknown bottom type   Permanent nontidal Freshwater

Comments on species-habitat associations:
Prefer areas of open water. The NWI gives the best review of habitat needs.

Important plant and animal association: Canvasbacks (Aythya valisineria) and other diving ducks and coots. American wigeon often feeds on aquatic plants brought to the water's surface by canvasbacks *02,09*, as well as other diving ducks and coots *04,05*; hence nickname "poacher" *02,09*.

High value habitats

HabitatStructural stageSeason
Wet prairie Grass-forb Spring/summer
Wetland
Marsh
Sedge meadow
Special habitat All
Lakes and ponds
Reservoir
Streams
Not applicable (HVAL-HAB cover) All

Species-habitat interrelations: Prefer areas of open water (particularly for feeding *09*) and aquatic areas with emergent or tall grass vegetation for resting and nesting *04,05,09*.

 


GUILDS

Feed-guilding:

HabitatStructural stageSeasonFeed-guilds
Wetland Special habitat All Water bottom-aquatic bed, rooted vascular plants
Water column-rooted vascular plants
Water surface-rooted herbaceous plants at surface
Water surface-rooted herbaceous plants through surface
Water column- arthropods
Lakes and ponds Not applicable (HVAL-HAB cover) All Water bottom-aquatic bed, rooted vascular plants
Water column-rooted vascular plants
Water surface-rooted herbaceous plants at surface
Water surface-rooted herbaceous plants through surface
Water column- arthropods

Comments on feed-guilding:
Eat primarily aquatic vegetation from surface and water column of open water *04,08,09*. Also feeds on vegetation brought to the water surface by diving ducks and coots *04,05*.

Breed-guilding:

HabitatStructural stageSeasonBreed-Guilds
Lakes and ponds Not applicable (HVAL-HAB cover) Spring River/lake/marsh, open water
Wetland Special habitat Spring/summer Terrestrial surface, marshy areas with hydrophytes but not hydric soils
Terrestrial surface, grass and grasslike vegetation
River/lake/marsh, vascular plants- emergent, nonwoody

Comments on breed-guilding:
Copulation occurs on the water of lakes or ponds or other suitable aquatic area *04,09*. Nest usually in upland grassy area (ex. sedge meadow, etc.) *04,05,09*.

 


FOOD-HABITS

Trophic level is OMNIVORE

Food itemLife stage/plant part
Chlorophyta (green algae) Not applicable
Polygonaceae (buckwheat, rhubarb) Fruit/seeds
Rubiaceae (buttonbush, bedstraw, quinine) Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass) Leaves
Poaceae (grass): Corn Fruit/seeds
Zosteraceae (pondweed) Leaves
Alismataceae (arrowhead) Unknown
Cyperaceae (bulrush, sedge) Leaves, fruit/seeds
Lemnaceae (duckweed) Leaves
Plants other than those in IFWIS list Leaves/needles
Mollusca: Gastropoda (snails) Unknown
Hemiptera Unknown
Coleoptera (beetles) Unknown
Tricoptera (caddisflies) Larva
Diptera (flies, midges, mosquitoes) Larva, adult
Important:
Polygonaceae (buckwheat, rhubarb) Fruit/seeds
Zosteraceae (pondweed) Leaves
Plants other than those in IFWIS list Leaves/needles
Juvenile:
Zosteraceae (pondweed) Leaves
Cyperaceae (bulrush, sedge) Leaves, fruit/seeds
Lemnaceae (duckweed) Leaves
Mollusca: Gastropoda (snails) Unknown
Hemiptera Unknown
Coleoptera (beetles) Unknown
Diptera (flies, midges, mosquitoes) Larva, adult
Adult:
Chlorophyta (green algae) Not applicable
Polygonaceae (buckwheat, rhubarb) Fruit/seeds
Rubiaceae (buttonbush, bedstraw, quinine) Fruit/seeds
Poaceae (grass) Leaves
Poaceae (grass): Corn Fruit/seeds
Zosteraceae (pondweed) Leaves
Alismataceae (arrowhead) Unknown
Cyperaceae (bulrush, sedge) Leaves, fruit/seeds
Lemnaceae (duckweed) Leaves
Plants other than those in IFWIS list Leaves/needles
Mollusca: Gastropoda (snails) Unknown
Hemiptera Unknown
Coleoptera (beetles) Unknown
Tricoptera (caddisflies) Larva
Diptera (flies, midges, mosquitoes) Larva, adult

Comments on food habits: 
General: Prefer leafy parts and stems of aquatic plants, pondweeds, coontail, and wild celery in particular *05*.
Juvenile: Eat both plant (primarily aquatic) and animal food (primarily aquatic insects) *15*.
Adult: Prefer leafy parts and stems of aquatic plants, pondweeds, coontail, and wild celery in particular *05*.


ENVIRONMENTAL ASSOCIATIONS

General:

  • Air temperature: unknown
  • Water temperature: warm- greater than 30šC
  • Turbidity: clear water
  • Aquatic habitat: shallows with emergent vegetation (littoral zone)
  • Aquatic habitat zone: pelagic- needs open water
  • Aquatic habitat zone: surface
  • Water level: permanent
  • Water level: seasonally flooded
  • Water level: artificially flooded
  • Water level: steady-state reservoir levels
  • Water depth preference: < 1 ft.
  • Water depth preference: 1-5 ft.
  • Water depth preference: 5-10 ft.
  • Aquatic habitats: sloughs, bayous
  • Aquatic habitats: pool areas
  • Aquatic habitats: lake weedbeds
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: backwaters
  • Ecotones: grassland/water
  • Agricultural crops: see comments
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Limiting:

  • Water temperature: warm- greater than 30šC
  • Aquatic habitat: shallows with emergent vegetation (littoral zone)
  • Aquatic habitat zone: pelagic- needs open water
  • Water level: seasonally flooded
  • Water level: artificially flooded
  • Aquatic habitats: sloughs, bayous
  • Aquatic habitats: lake weedbeds
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh

Egg

  • Air temperature: unknown
  • Ecotones: grassland/water

Feeding juvenile:

  • Water temperature: warm- greater than 30šC
  • Turbidity: clear water
  • Aquatic habitat zone: pelagic- needs open water
  • Aquatic habitat zone: surface
  • Water level: permanent
  • Water level: seasonally flooded
  • Water level: artificially flooded
  • Water level: steady-state reservoir levels
  • Water depth preference: < 1 ft.
  • Water depth preference: 1-5 ft.
  • Water depth preference: 5-10 ft.
  • Aquatic habitats: sloughs, bayous
  • Aquatic habitats: pool areas
  • Aquatic habitats: lake weedbeds
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: backwaters
  • Agricultural crops: see comments
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Resting juvenile:

  • Water temperature: warm- greater than 30šC
  • Aquatic habitat: shallows with emergent vegetation (littoral zone)
  • Water level: permanent
  • Water level: seasonally flooded
  • Water level: artificially flooded
  • Water level: steady-state reservoir levels
  • Water depth preference: < 1 ft.
  • Aquatic habitats: sloughs, bayous
  • Aquatic habitats: pool areas
  • Aquatic habitats: lake weedbeds
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: backwaters
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Feeding adult:

  • Water temperature: warm- greater than 30šC
  • Turbidity: clear water
  • Aquatic habitat zone: pelagic- needs open water
  • Aquatic habitat zone: surface
  • Water level: permanent
  • Water level: seasonally flooded
  • Water level: artificially flooded
  • Water level: steady-state reservoir levels
  • Water depth preference: 1-5 ft.
  • Water depth preference: 5-10 ft.
  • Aquatic habitats: sloughs, bayous
  • Aquatic habitats: pool areas
  • Aquatic habitats: lake weedbeds
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: backwaters
  • Agricultural crops: see comments
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Resting adult:

  • Water temperature: warm- greater than 30šC
  • Aquatic habitat: shallows with emergent vegetation (littoral zone)
  • Water level: permanent
  • Water level: seasonally flooded
  • Water level: artificially flooded
  • Water level: steady-state reservoir levels
  • Water depth preference: < 1 ft.
  • Aquatic habitats: sloughs, bayous
  • Aquatic habitats: pool areas
  • Aquatic habitats: lake weedbeds
  • Aquatic habitats: swamp
  • Aquatic habitats: marsh
  • Aquatic habitats: backwaters
  • Human associations: wildlife refuges/sanctuaries

Breeding adult:

  • Air temperature: unknown
  • Water temperature: warm- greater than 30šC
  • Aquatic habitat: shallows with emergent vegetation (littoral zone)
  • Ecotones: grassland/water

Comments on environmental associations:
General: Associated with open water in lakes when feeding and emergent aquatic vegetation when resting. May also feed in the latter area if open water is unavailable *04,05,09*.
Egg: Nests are in upland grassy habitat (sedge, bulrush, etc.) from a few to as much as 400 yds. from water *05*.
Feeding juvenile: Initially feed in shallow water on invertebrates and aquatic plants *15*. As they grow older feed in same areas as adult *05,09*.
Resting juvenile: Rest in marshy areas in emergent vegetation or in tall grassy areas near water *04,05,09*.
Feeding adult: Prefers feeding in open water in lakes, often associated with coots and diving ducks (may steal aquatic vegetation that they bring to the surface). Will also feed in areas of emergent vegetation if open water is unavailable *04,05,09*.
Resting adult: Rest in marshy areas in emergent vegetation or in tall grassy areas near water *04,05,09*.
Breeding adult: Breed in prairie pothole regions in upland tall grass (sedge, bulrush, etc.) near water *05*.


LIFE HISTORY

Origin: Native *02,05*.

Physical description: Adult male - color - brownish with gray head and white crown; glassy green patch on side of head, white patch on fore part of wing, separated from the speculum by a black stripe followed by a greenish band in an otherwise black speculum, bill blue with black tip *05,21*; size - average length - 20 inches, wing - 10.4 inches, weight - 1.8 lbs. *05*. adult female - color - ruddy brown with gray head and neck, belly and forepart of wing whitish, blue bill with black tip *05,21*; size - average length - 19 inches, wing - 9.7 inches, weight - 1.7 lbs. *05*. immatures are similar in appearance to adult females but a little smaller *05,20*. For more detailed descriptions of the wigeon see *02,04,06*.

Reproduction: Breeding season - begin pair bonding at wintering grounds in november with 80% of hens paired by march *05,07,17*. Nesting begins in mid-May with peak in mid-June, may renest if first nest is destroyed *05*. It is very unlikely that wigeons currently nest in Illinois *04,05,09* although they may have in northern Illinois at one time *02*. Incubation - about 24 days *05,09*, average clutch size - 8.5, success rate of hatching may range from 33-75%, sexually mature at 1 year *04,09*. Breeding behavior - drake issues inciting call along with introductory shake, preening behind his wings and turning the back of the head. Part of the courtship involves a short flight or a pursuit flight. Copulation occurs when male swims up behind female, while pumping his head, and mounts her *04*. Population parameters: relative trend - estimates of breeding populations have indicated a 36% increase in 1984 over 1983 and a 26% increase compared with the average from 1955-1983 *16*. Survival and mortality - hunting is a major mortality factor for migrating ducks - in the Mississippi flyway age ratios of harvested wigeons averaged 1.32 (immatures/adults) and sex ratios (male/female) averaged 1.07 For immatures and 2.56 For adults during 1979-1983 *12*. The sex ratio in the bag is felt to be representative of the sex ratio in nature *05*.

Behavior: Home range size - during nesting season in Canada were found to prefer semipermanent water areas of 0.6-1.0 acre surrounded by hayfields or ungrazed woodland *05*. Broad density - may vary from 3.6 pairs/100 acres to 0.45 broods/acre *09*. Seasonal periodicity and migration -wigeons are only present in Illinois during their spring and fall migration *04,05,08,09*. For fall migration corridor information see *05*. Dispersal - hen may or may not remain with brood until they are nearly full grown, adult males leave female mate shortly after onset of incubation *04,05*. Primary dispersal occurs during migration periods. Parental care of young - solely by female, incubates egg, leads brood to water after hatched, and continues protecting them *09*. Development of young - undergoes usual class I, class II development, at this point growth accelerates and wigeons reach fledgling stage earlier than mallards; flight stage varies from 37-48 days *05*. Foraging strategy - are dabbling ducks so forage along the water surface for aquatic invertebrates and vegetation; adults frequently frequent open water of lakes and steal aquatic vegetation brought to the surface by diving ducks and coots *04,05, 09*. Nest site - in upland areas, from a few to 400 yds. away from water *05* generally in dense grassy vegetation *04,05,09*.

Limiting factors: Wetland habitat with aquatic plants - for breeding and for feeding and resting during migration - is the most critical limiting factor *05,18,19*. Nest destruction - by crows, skunks, and ground squirrels influences recruitment *05,09*. Disease - outbreaks of botulism, fowl cholera, and duck virus enteritis can be devastating to local duck populations *05,19*. Lead poisoning - lead shot has been found in wigeon gizzards but at low levels and uncommonly *20* so probably is not a significant mortality factor.

 


MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

Beneficial:

  • Maintaining natural areas and nature preserves
  • Maintaining unique or special habitat features (wetlands, snags, caves, cliffs, talises, etc.)
  • Improving habitat on adjacent areas to increase carrying capacity
  • Controlling sedimentation
  • Controlling water levels
  • Maintaining streams
  • Developing/maintaining lakes and ponds
  • Creating/maintaining islands within permanent impoundments
  • Developing/maintaining wetlands
  • Creating/maintaining wetlands from non-wetlands
  • Protecting existing wetlands
  • Burning of wetlands to maintain successional stages
  • Restoration of wetlands (return flooded or drained areas to previous wetland conditions)
  • Retaining crop residue (over winter)
  • Controlling wind and water erosion
  • Seeding aquatic plants
  • Regulating hunting
  • Providing food and cover for species under consideration
  • Developing/maintaining food plots
  • Planting patterns to increase wildlife diversity
  • Developing/maintaining greenspace (wildlife corridors)
  • Creating impoundments
  • Developing islands for waterfowl

Adverse:

  • Channelization
  • Controlling aquatic plants
  • Draining ponds/lakes
  • Developing/maintaining mudflats
  • Strip mining

Existing:

  • Controlling water levels
  • Protecting existing wetlands
  • Regulating hunting
  • Developing/maintaining food plots

Comments on management practices:
In Illinois the most important management for the wigeon is to protect wetland areas for use as they migrate. This includes controlling sedimentation of lakes and river bottoms, providing aquatic plants (ex. pondweeds, coontail, wild celery, etc.) for food and emergent grasses and forbs for cover *05*.

 


REFERENCES

0. SANDBERG, S. 1985. ILL. NAT. HIST. SURV., 607 E. PEABODY DR., CHAMPAIGN, IL. 61820. (217)333-6846.

1. GMELIN. 1789. ANAS AMERICANA GMELIN. SYST. NAT. VOL. 1 PT. 2. P. 526.

2. BENT, A.C. 1923. LIFE HISTORIES OF NORTH AMERICAN WILD FOWL, ORDER ANSERES (PART). U.S. NATL. MUS. BULL. 126:1-250.

3. RIDGEWAY, R. 1895 [1913]. THE ORNITHOLOGY OF ILLINOIS. DESCRIPTIVE CATALOGUE. VOL. II. STATE LAB. NAT. HIST. 282 PP.

4. PALMER, R.S., ED. 1976. HANDBOOK OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS. VOL. 2. YALE UNIV. PRESS, NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT. 521 PP.

5. BELLROSE, F.C. 1976. DUCKS, GEESE AND SWANS OF NORTH AMERICA. 2ND ED. STACKPOLE BOOKS, HARRISBURG, PENNSYLVANIA. 543 PP.

6. AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGISTS' UNION. 1983. CHECK-LIST OF NORTH AMERICAN BIRDS. 6TH ED. AMERICAN ORNITHOLOGISTS' UNION. ALLEN PRESS INC., LAWRENCE, KANSAS. 877 PP.

7. SOUTIERE, E.C., H.S. MYRICK, AND E.G. BOLEN. 1972. CHRONOLOGY AND BEHAVIOR OF AMERICAN WIDGEON WINTERING IN TEXAS. J. WILDL. MANAGE. 36(3):752-758.

8. ANDERSON, H.G. 1959. FOOD HABITS OF MIGRATORY DUCKS IN ILLINOIS. ILLINOIS NAT. HIST. SURV. BULL. 27(4):289-344.

9. JOHNSGARD, P.A. 1975. WATERFOWL OF NORTH AMERICA. INDIANA UNIV. PRESS, BLOOMINGTON. 574 PP.

10. ILLINOIS DEPT. CONSERV. 1980. CONSERVATION LAWS. CH. 61. WILDLIFE ARTIC. II, PAR. 2.2, REPRINTED FROM ILLINOIS REVISED STATUTES, 1979. WEST PUBL. CO. ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA. 120 PP.

11. U.S. FISH WILDL. SERV. 1983. CODE FED. REG. TITLE 50. WILDL. AND FISHERIES. CHAPT. 1, PP. 11-18. 50 CFR 10.13. LIST OF MIGRATORY BIRDS. SPEC. PUBL. FEDERAL REGISTR. GEN. SERV. ADMIN. OCTOBER 1.

12. SORENSON, M.F., S.M. CARNEY, E.M. MARTIN. 1984. AGE AND SEX COMPOSITION OF DUCKS AND GEESE HARVESTED IN THE 1983 HUNTING SEASON IN COMPARISON WITH PRIOR YEARS. U.S. FISH WILDL. SERV. OFFICE MIGR. MANAGE. ADMIN. REPT. 40 PP.

13. CARNEY, S.M., M.F. SORENSEN, AND E.M. MARTIN. 1984. WATERFOWL HARVEST AND HUNTER ACTIVITY IN THE UNITED STATES DURING THE 1983 HUNTING SEASONS. U.S. FISH WILDL. SERV. OFFICE MIGR. BIRD MANAGE. ADMIN. REPT. 27 PP.

14. HIRST, S.M. AND C.A. EASTHOPE. 1981. USE OF AGRICULTURAL LANDS BY WATERFOWL IN SOUTHWESTERN BRITISH COLUMBIA. J. WILDL. MANAGE. 45(2): 454-462.

15. SUGDEN, L.G. 1973. FEEDING ECOLOGY OF PINTAIL, GADWALL, AMERICAN WIDGEON, AND LESSER SCAUP DUCKLINGS IN SOUTHERN ALBERTA. CAN. WILDL. SERV. REPT. SER. NO. 24. 45 PP.

16. OFFICE OF MIGRATORY BIRD MANAGEMENT. 1984. TRENDS IN DUCK BREEDING POPULATIONS, 1955-1984. U.S. FISH WILDL. SERV. OFFICE MIGR. BIRD MANAGE. ADMIN. REPT. 9 PP.

17. WISHART, R.A. 1983. PAIRING CHRONOLOGY AND MATE SELECTION IN THE AMERICAN WIGEON (ANAS AMERICANA). CAN. J. ZOOL. 61(8):1733-1743.

18. BELLROSE, F.C., F.L. PAVEGLIO, JR., AND D.W. STEFFECK. 1979. WATERFOWL POPULATIONS AND THE CHANGING ENVIRONMENT OF THE ILLINOIS RIVER VALLEY. ILLINOIS NAT. HIST. SURV. BULL. 32(1):1-54.

19. HAWKINS, A.S., R.C. HANSON, H.K. NELSON, AND H.M. REEVES, EDS. 1984. FLYWAYS. U.S. DEPT. INTER. U.S. FISH WILDL. SERV. 517 PP.

20. BELLROSE, F.C. 1959. LEAD POISONING AS A MORTALITY FACTOR IN WATERFOWL POPULATIONS. ILLINOIS NAT. HIST. SURV. BULL. 27(3):235-288.

21. PETERSON, R.T. 1947. A FIELD GUIDE TO THE BIRDS. HOUGHTON MIFFLIN CO. BOSTON, MASSACHUSSETTS. 230 PP.

22. BELLROSE, F.C. AND J. BLOW. 1978. ADVANCES IN WATERFOWL MANAGEMENT RESEARCH. WILDL. SOC. BULL. 6(2):63-72.

23. BOHLEN, H.D. 1978. AN ANNOTATED CHECK-LIST OF THE BIRDS OF ILLINOIS. ILLINOIS STATE MUS. POP. SCI. SER. VOL. IX. 154 PP.

 


 

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