The American Wigeon's Habits and Other Facts
Am I a Clever Duck?
The American Wigeon covers at some time during the year, all of the United States and the better part of Canada. A couple of common names for this duck is baldpate and poacher. The top of the male’s head has white feathers that contrast with the rest of its plumage, which suggests a bald head. Poacher comes into play, as the wigeon likes to take the wild celery from the other ducks in the area, as it doesn’t like to dive.
Breeding Grounds and Courtship...
These ducks don’t pair up on their winter grounds(late November), arriving north on their breeding grounds in small flocks right around the end of May. As many as five or six males will court the same female, even though the ratio between sexes is half and half. It appears that some females are early breeders, and when the other females catch up, the spooning appears a lot more fair.
The males gather in the water and circle around their desired female, and their calls fill the air, which is similar to a “whew-whew-whew”. The males keep their wings folded and elevate their rears. Both sexes partially extend their wings and preen behind them.
The courting flight is very swift. The males twist and turn at high speeds, and he will race under, then up in front of the female to display, before dropping back again.
It is rare for these ducks to have any body contact between courting males. When the female has selected her mate, she follows him on the water, and they both engage in a head-bobbing ritual. Almost immediately after, the pair retires to wherever the male has selected as his home territory. He will defend this area against any other duck of the species, male or female, and sometimes no other duck at all is allowed.
Eggs and Ducklings
The creamy white eggs of the clutch usually numbers between nine and eleven. The female alone incubates them. The ducklings go to the water as soon as their down is dry. They are a light yellow on the belly, and a brown-yellow on the face and breast. The feet and bill are gray-blue, and the top of the head, wings, back, and back of the neck are dark brown. If the young are disturbed or threatened, mother gives a diversion while the young escape. She will drag her wings, flop around, and splash about if she happens to be on the water. She flies away when the danger has passed or the young are hidden safely away.
Molting and Lack of Flight
The males eclipse once the female begins incubation, which means that he begins new feather growth. He’ll lose the old flight and bright head feathers. The males all tend to hang around together on a large body of water with plenty of vegetation for cover. The female goes into her molting period after the male, so she is flightless just before and after the young begin their flight adventures.
The baldpates eat mostly vegetable matter, but will partake in insects, crickets, leeches, small mollusks, insect larvae, and beetles. The young ones will eat more of non-vegetation than the adults.
Natural Enemies and Other Negative Effects
The population is controlled by racoons, hawks, crows, coyote, fox, otter, mink, owls, hawks, and eagles. Disease, drought, parasites, accidents, and prairie fires are also contributing factors.