Wigeon

Latin name: Anas penelope

Family: Anatidae

There are around 300 to 500 resident breeding pairs of wigeon in the UK although numbers increase significantly in winter. This is when an estimated 278,000 wigeon leave their breeding grounds in northern and central Europe to spend the winter on estuaries and other water bodies in the UK.

The birds favour nesting sites that are in areas of thick vegetation close to shallow water bodies, making the small moorland tarns that are scattered across the hill tops of the Yorkshire Dales an ideal breeding habitat. However, the wigeon is not confined to the water like many diving duck species. As a result a few birds can be found nesting on boggy moorland areas where there are abundant insects for the young chicks to feed on.

The first wigeon breeding records for the National Park were started in 1955. Since then there has been a regular breeding population of around 20 pairs, with over 30 pairs nesting in some years.

Wigeon have been known to breed at a minimum of 11 sites in the Yorkshire Dales for the last ten years, but the remoteness of many of these sites makes regular surveying difficult. There is one specific site in the Yorkshire Dales which consistently supports between seven and 15 breeding pairs of wigeon. This figure equates to more than 1% of the national breeding population, giving the site national importance.

At risk?

The wigeon is of international significance and it is important that the habitats for both the resident birds and the visiting population are protected. The RSPB has allocated an Amber conservation status to the wigeon.

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The unfolding of Grass Wood throughout the year is a story of rich fulfilment. From 'Wharfedale' by Ella Pontefract & Marie Hartley

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