The American wigeon, also called a baldpate, is a species of dabbling duck found in North America. The breeding male (drake) is a striking bird with a mask of green feathers around its eyes and a cream-colored cap running from the crown of its head to its bill. This white patch gives the wigeon its other common name, baldpate (pate is another word for head). Their belly is also white. In flight, drakes can be identified by the large white shoulder patch on each wing. These white patches flash as the birds bank and turn. In non-breeding (eclipse) plumage, the drake looks more like the female. The female (a hen) is much less conspicuous, having primarily gray and brown plumage. Both sexes have a pale blue bill with a black tip, a white belly, and gray legs and feet.
American wigeons are found in the extreme north of Canada and Alaska and also in the Interior West through Idaho, Colorado, the Dakotas, and Minnesota, as well as eastern Washington and Oregon. They are migratory and winter in the southern half of the United States, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and the Mid-Atlantic coastal region, and further south into Central America, the Caribbean, and northwestern South America. American wigeons are birds of open wetlands, such as freshwater lakes, rivers, ponds, sheltered estuaries and bays, wet grassland, or marshes with some taller vegetation.
American wigeons are highly gregarious outside of the breeding season and spend time in large flocks. They are active during the day and usually feed by dabbling for plant food or grazing, which they do very readily. While on the water, wigeons often gather with feeding coots and divers and are known to grab pieces of vegetation brought to the surface by diving water birds. For this reason, they are sometimes called "poacher" or "robber" ducks. American wigeons also commonly feed on dry land, eating waste grain in harvested fields and grazing on pasture grasses, winter wheat, clover, and lettuce. Having a largely vegetarian diet, most birds migrate in the fall well before northern marshes begin to freeze. American wigeons are quite noisy and in the field can often be identified by their distinctive calls. Drakes produce a three-note whistle, while hens emit hoarse grunts and quacks. The male whistle makes a 'wheezy whoee-whoe-whoe', whereas the female has a low growl 'qua-ack'.
American wigeons are serially monogamous; they form pairs that remain together during a single breeding season and after the second week of incubation, males usually leave to molt. These birds nest on the ground, near water, and under cover. Their nests are constructed of grasses and weed stems. The female lays 6-12 creamy-white eggs which are incubated for 23-25 days. The ducklings are precocial and leave the nest with the female soon after hatching. They become independent at about 37-48 days of age and reach reproductive maturity when they are about 1 year old.
American wigeons are common and widespread throughout their range and are not endangered at present. However, populations of these birds suffer from habitat loss, changes in climate, and hunting pressure; the American wigeon is often the fifth most commonly harvested duck in the United States, behind the mallard, green-winged teal, gadwall, and wood duck
According to the All About Birds resource the total breeding population size of the American wigeon is around 1.4 million birds. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.