I took these photos in Dec 2008 and originally posted them elsewhere, but it’s that time of year when Wigeon are piling into the UK, so why not highlight them again…
Eurasian Wigeons are similar in size and bulk to American Wigeons (a little smaller generally but there is considerable overlap), and the small number of UK breeding pairs (approx 300-500) are hugely augmented by winter visitors from Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia: at their peak as many as 400,000+ will be in the UK.
At Slimbridge Eurasian Wigeon start arriving early in the winter and numbers often reach 3000+. They feed mostly on the short grass areas between the River Severn and the Headquarters itself, but are often spooked up by hunting Peregrine Falcons Falco peregrinus and Northern Sparrowhawks Accipiter nisus when entire flocks lift up and seek sanctuary on the flooded areas in front of the main hides when good views are more or less guaranteed!
Eurasian Wigeons, Slimbridge feeding on seasonally-flooded meadows (the dark birds in the foreground are mainly Jackdaws Corvus monedula, and note the Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata flying top right)
(The other species in this photo? Northern Lapwings Vanellus vanellus)
Note the yellow forehead blazes, striking white bellies and black-and-white specula on these flying birds (which were put up by a passing Sparrowhawk). This species also shows grey axilla and underwings unlike the whiter underwings of A americana.
Pair of American Wigeons A. americana, Bolsa Chica (California), December. Note whiter underwings than A. penelope
A typical flock of adult Wigeons, though note the bird lower centre which is a male moutling out of eclipse plumage.
Unlike most ducks in the UK Eurasian Wigeons will soon drift back onto the land to feed (note the male Common Teal Anas crecca feeding mid-left in the photo above).
Note that typically a small number of male birds will show a greenish wash to the ear-coverts. This doesn’t appear to be linked to hybridisation.
All photos copyright Charlie Moores 2008.