The Widgeon (Mareca Penelope), Fig. 74, included in the Ana-tidae or Ducks, and belonging to the sub-family Anatinae of the True Ducks, is distinguished by the bill being uniformly broad throughout, and the laminae or fringes very prominent. In the males the head and neck are rich chestnut in colour, with the exception of a yellowish cream colour band passing from the forehead over the crown; the breast is pale red, and the under-parts white; back is greyish-white, with irregular black lines; primaries dusky brown, speculum glossy green, and the tail nearly black. The average length is about 20 in. The female is less brightly coloured than the male, being ruddy brown on the head and neck, with darker markings, the back being brown and the abdomen white. The male loses his brilliant colours after the breeding season.

The Widgeon.

Fig. 74. - The Widgeon.

The widgeons arrive in Britain from the north in September or October and then assemble in large flocks. They migrate northward in March and April, and appear to pass the summer for breeding purposes in Norway and Sweden. The nest is usually composed of decayed grass, leaves, or rushes, lined with the soft feathers plucked from the breast of the parent bird, and is placed near water, usually among the substances of which it is composed. As the flesh of the widgeon is very delicate, the bird feeding almost exclusively on a vegetable diet, it is much sought after for the table.