Anas penelopeEurasian wigeon

Geographic Range

Eurasian wigeons (Anas penelope) have a very large distribution, they breed from Iceland across northern Europe and Asia. Although they are mostly migratory, some British populations are mainly stationary. Migratory populations winter from the British Isles to northern Africa and India, with a few reaching the United States and Canada. (Carboneras, 1992; Cramp and Simmons, 1977; Johnsgard, 1978)


During the breeding season, Eurasian wigeons occupy many different wetlands including shallow freshwater marshes, lagoons, and lakes with abundant floating and submerged vegetation, accompanied by mud or silt bottoms. Wigeons can also be found in slow moving rivers and streams. Eurasian wigeons favor meadow shorelines or those scattered with trees. Throughout the winter, Eurasian wigeons use tidal mud flats or salt marshes for gatherings. Wintering wigeons can also be found in freshwater lagoons and flooded grasslands. (Carboneras, 1992; Cramp and Simmons, 1977; Johnsgard, 1978)

Physical Description

Eurasian wigeons are medium-sized ducks, ranging in length from 45 to 58 cm, with a wing span of 75 to 86 cm. They weigh between 415 to 971 g and are sexually dimorphic, where males are more vibrantly colored. Eurasian wigeons have small bills, narrow wings, a pointed tail, and a crested forehead. Adult males have a creamy white forehead with a chestnut brown head and neck and iridescent green speckling behind their eyes. Their upper breast is pinkish brown and their lower breast and flanks are white but appear grey. They have a black tipped tail with white upper coverts; wing coverts are also white with a black tip. Eurasian wigeons have greenish secondaries and dust brown primaries, with bluish grey feet and bills that are tipped in black. Males in eclipse plumage look similar to females but have white wing coverts. Adult females have a beige head and neck, which is speckled greenish, and their sides and breast are rufous. Their rump and shoulders are dusky and their wings are grayish brown. They also have a blue grey bill tipped with black and bluish legs. Eurasian wigeons are most commonly confused with American wigeons. Adult male Eurasian wigeons can be distinguished from American wigeons by their reddish head and grey vermiculated sides. Females are remarkably similar but Eurasian wigeons have speckled grey at the base of their wings, where as American wigeons have white. (Carboneras, 1992; Cramp and Simmons, 1977; Jacobsen and Ugelvik, 1992; Scott and Rose, 1996)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • male more colorful
  • Range mass
    415 to 971 g
    14.63 to 34.22 oz
  • Range length
    45 to 58 cm
    17.72 to 22.83 in
  • Range wingspan
    75 to 86 cm
    29.53 to 33.86 in


Eurasian wigeons are seasonally monogamous with pair bonds forming from late autumn and continuing throughout the winter. (Cramp and Simmons, 1977)

The breeding season of Eurasian wigeons ranges from April to May. They lay seven to eleven eggs in a small depression lined with vegetation and down. Preferred nest sites are near shorelines covered by overhanging branches. Incubation periods range from 22 to 25 days, with an average of 24 days. Eurasian wigeons are independent at, or slightly before the fledgling stage, which they reach in 40 to 45 days. Sexual maturity is reached at one to two years. (Carboneras, 1992; Cramp and Simmons, 1977; Johnsgard, 1978)

  • Breeding interval
    Eurasian Wigeons breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    These birds breed from April to May.
  • Range eggs per season
    7 to 11
  • Range time to hatching
    22 to 25 days
  • Average time to hatching
    24 days
  • Range fledging age
    40 to 45 days
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 to 2 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 to 2 years

Once pair bonds are formed, male Eurasian wigeons defend their mate until the breeding season. When incubation has begun, males typically leave their mate and begin molting. Once incubation has started, up until the time of fledging, all care is provided by the female. (Johnsgard, 1978)

  • Parental Investment
  • precocial
  • pre-fertilization
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • post-independence association with parents


Based on a banding study in Britain, the oldest recorded wild Eurasian wigeon lived 35 years, 2 months. (Fransson, et al., 2010)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    35.167 (high) years


Eurasian wigeons are a social, migratory species, except during the breeding season. These birds are dabbling ducks that feed both in water and on land. Typically they feed with outstretched heads and necks, they but will up-end if the conditions are right. Both sexes go through a flightless molt. Males gather in molting flocks while females incubate eggs and raise hatchlings. Females and fledglings join males later in the summer before migration begins. In North America, Eurasian wigeons can be found in mixed flocks of ducks, especially with American wigeons. (Cramp and Simmons, 1977; Johnsgard, 1978)

Home Range

There is very little information available regarding the home range size of Eurasian wigeons. Breeding birds can have varying degrees of territoriality. In one case, an island population of 35 to 40 breeding pairs was found 8 to 34 meters apart. In the winter, they have been recorded traveling about 2.8 km each day between roosting and foraging sites. (Batt, et al., 1992; Carboneras, 1992; Legagneux, et al., 2009)

Communication and Perception

Eurasian wigeons are strongly vocal, males make a loud whistling call, “phee oo,” while females make a low pitched growl or hum, “errr”. The calls of Eurasian wigeons are similar to American wigeons; however, male Eurasian wigeons have shorter, louder calls. (Cramp and Simmons, 1977; Johnsgard, 1978)

Food Habits

Eurasian wigeons are dabbling ducks that may fly up to 16 km to feed. They feed in both aquatic and terrestrial environments. Wigeons can feed on aquatic vegetation by both surface filter feeding and up-end feeding. To filter feed, they strain water and plant material through tiny tooth like groves in their bill. Tip-up or up-end feeding is used to reach submergant vegetation. Eurasian wigeons are herbivores and granivores. They eat leaves, stems, roots, and seeds. Some specific plants eaten by this species include; fringed water lily, duckweed, water crowfoot and Canadian pondweed. Eurasian wigeons have been known to feed near swans and diving ducks on pondweed beds. Feeding amongst large diving birds allows them to steal food as it comes to the surface. (Carboneras, 1992; Cramp and Simmons, 1977; Johnsgard, 1978)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • roots and tubers
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • algae


Red foxes, common ravens, American minks, and hooded crows are common nest predators of Eurasian wigeons. Likewise, adult birds are often hunted by gyrfalcons and western marsh-harriers. To avoid terrestrial predators, Eurasian wigeons quack loudly in groups and follow the predator's movements. When avian predators are detected, Eurasian wigeons flee to vegetation and lay motionless with their necks stretched out until the threat has passed. Eurasian wigeons mainly escape predators by flight, but they may also dive. (Carboneras, 1992; Jacobsen and Ugelvik, 1992)

Ecosystem Roles

Eurasian wigeons feed on wetland plants throughout their range. These birds are also prey items for a variety of mammalian and avian predators. (Carboneras, 1992; Cramp and Simmons, 1977; Jacobsen and Ugelvik, 1992; Johnsgard, 1978)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Eurasian wigeons are commercially and recreationally hunted. In some areas, eggs are harvested and individuals are raised as pets. (Butchart, et al., 2013; Carboneras, 1992; Gudmundsson, 1979)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are currently no known negative impacts of Eurasian wigeons on humans.

Conservation Status

The exact population size of Eurasian wigeons is unknown; however, the estimated global population is 2,800,000 to 3,300,000. This population size gives this species a ranking of least concern on the IUCN Red List. There is no current listing for Eurasian wigeons on the US Migratory Bird Act or the US Federal List. However, Cites does list Eurasian wigeons in appendix III. (Butchart, et al., 2013; Carboneras, 1992)


Cody Tromberg (author), University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point, Christopher Yahnke (editor), University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Adam DeBolt (editor), Leila Siciliano Martina (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map


uses sound to communicate

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.

brackish water

areas with salty water, usually in coastal marshes and estuaries.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


an area where a freshwater river meets the ocean and tidal influences result in fluctuations in salinity.


an animal that mainly eats leaves.


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


mainly lives in water that is not salty.


an animal that mainly eats seeds


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


makes seasonal movements between breeding and wintering grounds


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


a wetland area that may be permanently or intermittently covered in water, often dominated by woody vegetation.


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


A terrestrial biome with low, shrubby or mat-like vegetation found at extremely high latitudes or elevations, near the limit of plant growth. Soils usually subject to permafrost. Plant diversity is typically low and the growing season is short.


uses sight to communicate

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


Batt, B., A. Afton, M. Anderson, C. Ankney, D. Johnson, J. Kadlec, G. Krapu. 1992. Ecology and Management of Breeding Waterfowl. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Butchart, S., J. Ekstrom, L. Malpas. 2013. "Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope" (On-line). Accessed August 21, 2013 at

Carboneras, C. 1992. Anas penelope. Pp. 601 in J del Hoyo, A Elliot, J Sargatel, eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World, Vol. 1 Ostrich to Ducks. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions.

Cramp, S., K. Simmons. 1977. Handbook of the birds of Europe. The Middle East and North Africa. The birds of the Western Palearctic, Vol. I: ostriches to ducks. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fransson, T., T. Kolehmainen, C. Kroon, L. Jansson, T. Wenniger. 2010. "European Longevity Records" (On-line). Accessed August 21, 2013 at

Gudmundsson, F. 1979. The Past Status and Exploitation of the Myvatn Waterfowl Populations. Nordic Society Oikos, 32: 232-249.

Jacobsen, O., M. Ugelvik. 1992. Anti-Predator Behavior of Breeding Eurasian Wigeon. Journal of Field Ornithology, 63: 324-330.

Johnsgard, P. 1978. Ducks, Geese, and Swans of the World. Lincoln and London: University of Nebraska Press.

Legagneux, P., C. Blaize, F. Latraube, J. Gautier, V. Bretagnolle. 2009. Variation in home-range size and movements of wintering dabbling ducks. Journal of Ornithology, 150: 183-193.

Scott, D., P. Rose. 1996. Atlas of Anatidae Populations in Africa and Western Eurasia. Wetlands International Publications, No. 41: 116-118.