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Species, Age and Sex Identification of Ducks Using Wing Plumage

American Wigeon


Adult males have a large white upperwing patch, long acutely pointed tertials with black outerwebs, and gray greater tertial coverts that are somewhat pointed and narrowly white-edged.

Adult females have a sharply defined white edging on both greater and middle tertial coverts. Usually the sharp white edging on the middle and lesser coverts is sufficient to identify adult females, however, a few are so lightly colored as to resemble immature males. A careful check of tertials and greater tertial coverts will serve to identify them.

Immature males usually have small, brownish tertials and tertial coverts, but by November these are often replaced with adult male-type feathers. The middle and lesser coverts are gray-brown and indistinctly edged with a lighter gray.

Immature females have small, brownish tertials and tertial coverts similar to those of immature males. By the middle of the fall hunting season these may be replaced with adult female-type feathers. The middle and lesser coverts are brownish with well-defined pale tan edges. Often the greater secondary coverts lack most of the black tipping common to wings of other ages and sexes and their outer webs are brownish gray to gray-white.

Separation of American wigeon wings from Eurasian wigeon wings can be accomplished using the following procedures:

American wigeon
Axillars (if present) entirely white or flecked only at their tips.
Underwing middle coverts all or nearly all white.
Scapulars of males (if present) are heavily vermiculated with reddish brown.

Eurasian wigeon
Axillars (if present) heavily flecked with gray over their entire length.
Underwing middle coverts heavily flecked with gray.
Scapulars of males (if present) are heavily vermiculated with black and white.

Wing Character Male Female
Adult Immature Immature Adult
Scapulars Vermiculated or barred or both Barred
Underwing Coverts gray, heavily flecked with white Coverts brownish; heavily edged with white to gray
Occasionally as in females
Middle and lesser coverts Entirely white except few over tertials that are gray Many white to gray-white; others brownish with light centers and poorly defined gray-white edging Brownish with well defined light brown edges; a few have light centers Brown; often with light center; each covert nearly circumscribed by a sharply defined white edging
Greater tertial coverts Gray (including tips); somewhat pointed with narrow white edging Brown with light gray-brown edging; often frayed and faded Dark brown; edged with white to form a broadly rounded arc
After molt: Similar to adult male After molt: Similar to adult female
Tertials Long; acutely pointed outer web shiny black with narrow white edge; inner web dull gray; rachis trimmed with white Pointed; inner and outer webs brownish; edged with white; often frayed, faded or both at tips Somewhat bluntly pointed; outer web brownish fray; rachis not trimmed with white
After molt: Similar to adult male After molt: Similar to adult female
Greater secondary coverts 1/2 inch terminal black band; remainder of outer webs white; inner web gray Terminal band reduced, poorly defined and/or restricted to proximal coverts; remainder of outer webs brownish gray to dull white; inner webs brownish gray 1/2 inch terminal black band; remainder of outer webs white


JPG-Underwings of Eurasian and American wigeons JPG-Adult male American wigeon JPG-Adult female American wigeon (pale type) JPG-Adult female American wigeon (common type) JPG-Underwings of adult male and female American wigeons JPG-Immature male American wigeon JPG-Immature female American wigeon

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