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Eurasian Wigeon Mareca penelope
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This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

Taxonomic note
Mareca penelope (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) was previously placed in the genus Anas.

Anas penelope Linnaeus, 1758

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number c.2,800,000-3,300,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006), while national population sizes have been estimated at c.100-10,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 wintering individuals in China and c.50-10,000 wintering individuals in Taiwan (Brazil 2009).

Trend justification
The overall trend is decreasing, although some populations may be stable or increasing (Wetlands International 2006), e.g. the population trend is increasing in North America (based on BBS/CBC data: Butcher and Niven 2007).

Behaviour The species is strongly migratory, undertaking significant cold weather movements of varying magnitude (Scott and Rose 1996). It leaves its breeding grounds in late summer (September) to arrive in its wintering grounds across Europe and Asia in October and November (Scott and Rose 1996, Kear 2005b). Populations leave their winter quarters again between March and April, and arrive in their breeding grounds in northern Russia during the second half of May (Scott and Rose 1996, Kear 2005b). Both the males and females of the species undergo a flightless moult period after breeding and whilst still in their breeding range, during which they congregate at moult gatherings (Scott and Rose 1996, Kear 2005b) (males moult their flight feathers between late May and July, females between late June and early September) (Scott and Rose 1996). Birds of this species are dispersive during the breeding season and nest in pairs or small groups (Brown et al. 1982, Madge and Burn 1988, Kear 2005b). On passage to their wintering grounds individuals come together in large numbers, and during the non-breeding season the species is highly gregarious, forming close aggregations (4,200 birds were recorded in one wintering flock in Ethiopia) (Brown et al. 1982, Madge and Burn 1988). It is chiefly a diurnal feeder (Myrfyn and Thomas 1979), but is sometimes nocturnal (depending on local disturbances and tides, especially in its non-breeding marine habitats) (Kear 2005b). Habitat Breeding This species breeds in lowland freshwater marshes, slow-flowing large rivers (Kretchmar 1994) and shallow lakes and lagoons with ample submerged, floating and emerging vegetation (Kear 2005b). Ideal wetland habitats for this species are those surrounded by sparse open forest, woodland and especially agricultural land (Kretchmar 1994, Kear 2005b), in the boreal and subarctic zone (Cramp and Simmons 1977, Kear 2005b). It avoids tundra, densely forested and mountainous country, as well as fast flowing rivers and streams, but tolerates saline or alkaline steppe lakes and wetlands (Cramp and Simmons 1977, Madge and Burn 1988). Non-breeding In the non-breeding season this species shows a preference for coastal salt-marshes, freshwater, brackish and saline lagoons (Cramp and Simmons 1977), flooded grasslands (Cramp and Simmons 1977), estuaries, intertidal mudflats (Cramp and Simmons 1977), and other sheltered marine habitats (Kear 2005b). Diet It is vegetarian and consumes the leaves, seeds, stems and root bulbs of pond weeds, fine grasses (Myrfyn and Thomas 1979) (especially from agricultural land surrounding lakes) (Jacobsen 1993), horsetails (Kretchmar 1994) and eelgrass, as well as algae (Johnsgard 1978). Animal material is taken rarely and usually incidentally along with vegetation or seeds (Myrfyn and Thomas 1979, Kear 2005b). Breeding site The nests of this species are shallow depressions in the ground lined with vegetation, usually positioned not far from water and well concealed under overhanging vegetation, in grass tussocks, scrub (Kear 2005b), and especially in heather (Jacobsen and Ugelvik 1998). Management information Removing red foxes Vulpes vulpes and pine martens Martes martes from regions in Finland significantly increased the breeding success of this species (Kauhala 2004).

This species is susceptible to disturbance from freshwater recreational activities (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Grishanov 2006) (e.g. tourists walking) (Mathers et al. 2000), pollution (including thallium contamination [Mochizuki, et al. 2005], petroleum pollution [Grishanov 2006]), wetland drainage (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Grishanov 2006), peat-extraction (e.g. in the Kaliningrad region of Russia) (Grishanov 2006), changing wetland management practices (decreased grazing and mowing in meadows leading to scrub over-growth) (Grishanov 2006) and the burning and mowing of reeds (Grishanov 2006). Avian influenza virus (strain H5N1) is also a potential threat (Melville and Shortridge 2006, Jonassen and Handeland 2007), as is poisoning from the ingestion of lead shot pellets (Mondain-Monval et al. 2002). Utilisation This species is hunted for sport (e.g. in the UK) (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Kear 2005b), and although population numbers in an area decrease significantly after a period of shooting, there is no current evidence that such utilisation poses and immediate threat to the species (Vaananen 2001, Bregnballe et al. 2006). The eggs of this species used to be (and possibly still are) harvested in Iceland (Gudmundsson 1979). This species is also hunted for commercial and recreational purposes in Gilan Province, northern Iran (Balmaki and Barati 2006).

Related state of the world's birds case studies

Balmaki, B.; Barati, A. 2006. Harvesting status of migratory waterfowl in northern Iran: a case study from Gilan Province. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 868-869. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, eastern Russia. Christopher Helm, London.

Bregnballe, T.; Noer, H.; Christensen, T. K.; Clausen, P.; Asferg, T.; Fox, A. D.; Delany, S. 2006. Sustainable hunting of migratory waterbirds: the Danish approach. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 854-860. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Brown, L. H.; Urban, E. K.; Newman, K. 1982. The birds of Africa vol I. Academic Press, London.

Cramp, S.; Simmons, K. E. L. 1977. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic, vol. I: ostriches to ducks. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Grishanov, D. 2006. Conservation problems of migratory waterfowl and shorebirds and their habitats in the Kaliningrad region of Russia. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 356. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Gudmundsson, F. 1979. The past status and exploitation of the Myvatn waterfowl populations. Oikos 32((1-2)): 232-249.

Jacobsen, O. W. 1993. Use of feeding habitats by breeding Eurasian wigeon. Canadian Journal of Zoology 71(5): 1046-1054.

Jacobsen, O. W.; Ugelvik, M. 1998. Nest habitat of Eurasian Wigeon Anas Penelope in SW Norway. Fauna (Oslo) 51(3): 89-93.

Johnsgard, P. A. 1978. Ducks, geese and swans of the World. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London.

Jonassen, C. M.; Handeland, K. 2007. Avian influenza virus screening in wild waterfowl in Norway, 2005. Avian Diseases 51(1): 425-428.

Kauhala, K. 2004. Removal of medium-sized predators and the breeding success of ducks in Finland. Folia Zoologica 53(4): 367-378.

Kear, J. 2005. Ducks, geese and swans volume 2: species accounts (Cairina to Mergus). Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.

Kretchmar, A. V. 1994. Eurasian wigeon (Anas penelope) in north-eastern Asia. Zoologichesky Zhurnal 73(5): 68-79.

Madge, S.; Burn, H. 1988. Wildfowl. Christopher Helm, London.

Mathers, R. G.; Watson, S.; Stone, R.; Montgomery, W. I. 2000. A study of the impact of human disturbance on Wigeon Anas penelope and Brent Geese Branta bernicla hrota on an Irish sea loch. Wildfowl 51: 67-81.

Melville, D. S.; Shortridge, K. F. 2006. Migratory waterbirds and avian influenza in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway with particular reference to the 2003-2004 H5N1 outbreak. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 432-438. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Mochizuki, M.; Mori, M.; Akinaga, M.; Yugami, K.; Oya, C.; Hondo, R.; Ueda, F. 2005. Thallium contamination in wild ducks in Japan. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 41(3): 664-668.

Mondain-Monval, J. Y.; Desnouhes, L.; Taris, J. P. 2002. Lead shot ingestion in waterbirds in the Camargue, (France). Game and Wildlife Science 19(3): 237-246.

Myrfyn, O.; Thomas, G. J. 1979. The feeding ecology and conservation of wigeon wintering at the Ouse Washes, England. Journal of Applied Ecology 16: 795-809.

Scott, D. A.; Rose, P. M. 1996. Atlas of Anatidae populations in Africa and western Eurasia. Wetlands International, Wageningen, Netherlands.

Vaananen, V. M. 2001. Hunting disturbance and the timing of autumn migration in Anas species. Wildlife Biology 7(1): 3-9.

Vahatalo, A. V.; Rainio, K.; Lehikoinen, A.; Lehikoinen, E. 2004. Spring arrival of birds depends on the North Atlantic Oscillation. Journal of Avian Biology 35: 210-216.

Further web sources of information
Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

View photos and videos and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S., Malpas, L.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2016) Species factsheet: Mareca penelope. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2016) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 25/10/2016.

This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000) Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004) Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Least Concern
Family Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, Swans)
Species name author Linnaeus, 1758
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 12,900,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment