Eurasian Wigeon are a beautiful species of duck, distributed throughout Europe. Though the male and female Wigeon are very different in appearance during the breeding season, both can be identified by their short, wide and slightly hooked bill, which is blue-grey in colour with a black tip. They have short legs and a large round head shape.
When in flight, a white belly patch can be seen on both sexes, along with their distinctive green and black hind wing.
Male Wigeon are the more easily noticeable gender. Their breeding plumage is mostly grey on the body with a pink chest and red-brown head. They have a large white wing patch which can be seen when in flight and some individuals have a green streak behind their eye. The males’ most distinctive feature by far is their yellow forehead, however this is lost when they adopt their winter “eclipse” plumage, at which time they appear much more similar to female Wigeon, apart from retaining their large white wing patch.
Female Wigeon tend to have a grey-brown to reddish brown body, head and forewing. Unlike the males’ wing patch, females have a much more subtle thin white bar on their mid-wing.
During the summer months, they nest in moorland and peat bogs or boreal forest marshes in Iceland and Eastern Siberia. A migratory species, and it is the Icelandic breeders that over winter in Scotland’s estuaries, lakes and reservoirs. They can be seen at Montrose Basin during winter months, generally between September and April.
Wigeon prefer to reside in open spaces and enjoy stretches of water for bathing and for safety, making Montrose Basin a perfect habitat. Wigeon typically stay in tight groups, and are social birds.
Enjoying a vegetarian diet, Wigeon are grazers- mostly feeding on short grass, sedge and rush stems and roots. They also eat eelgrass on estuaries, such as the Basin, and also often graze on arable fields.
Wigeon, along with other wetland birds, are counted monthly at Montrose Basin as part of the UK wide Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS). Many wetland bird species are migratory, therefore it is important to monitor the size of their populations, trends in numbers and whereabouts they travel. Groups of volunteers count birds each month in synchronised counts so that all counts across the UK are done on the same day. The last WeBScount done here on the 11th October revealed that there were 4,287 Wigeon residing at Montrose Basin.
Here at the Basin we have the Wigeon hide, aptly named for optimal viewing of Wigeon, at the Mains of Dun, side of the Basin, a 1.5km walk from the Old Mill car park. They can also be spotted, however, at Rossie Spit, or occasionally in the salt marshes at the front of the Visitor Centre.
Reserve maps can be obtained from the Visitor centre or here http://bit.ly/1LYFzJ9
As of 1st November, the Visitor Centre will be opened Friday, Saturday and Sunday only, from 10.30am – 4.00pm until 29th February, 2016.
Reserves and hides will remain accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Aileen Corral – Visitor Centre Intern