Winter distribution and habitat requirements of Wigeon in Britain

Myrfyn Owen, Gwyn Williams


A questionnaire survey was carried out on sites which twice held 200 or more Wigeon Anas penelope in the last 15 years, and the numbers and distribution of the Wigeon in Britain were analysed. Winter maximum counts and 'Wigeon days' are used to assess the importance of sites. Wigeon are predominantly coastal and concentrate on rather few, large sites. There is a north-south and east-west dispersal within Britain during winter. Although 80% of Wigeon roost on the coast, only 54% of their feeding is done there. A third of the feeding time is on mudflats but inland pastures are now the most important Wigeon habitats. Wigeon feed both by day and night and generally feed close to the roosting site. Very seldom do they fly more than 5 miles (8 km) to feed. Prospects for the future of many sites are bleak, threats coming from recreational use of waters and from industrial development on estuaries. The adaptability of Wigeon should enable the species to maintain its numbers by moving into newly created habitats and adopting new feeding grounds. Examples are given of the effects of changes in disturbance and habitat factors on Wigeon use of certain sites.

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