Widgeon, the common name of the river ducks of the genus mareca (Steph.). They have a bill shorter than the head, of equal width throughout, much rounded at the tip, with a strong broad nail, and upper lamellae prominent; wings long and pointed, first and second quills longest; tail moderate and wedgeshaped; toes fully webbed, and hind one lobed. There are about 10 species in various parts of the world, performing periodical migrations at night in vast flocks; they are found on the sea shore and on the margin of lakes and rivers, feeding chiefly on vegetable substances. The American widgeon or bald-pate (M. Americana, Steph.) is about 22 in. long and 35 in. in alar extent; the tail has 14 feathers, and the bill is blue, black at the base and tip; upper parts finely waved transversely with black and gray or reddish brown, and lower parts mostly white; top of head nearly white, with a broad green patch around and behind the eyes; rest of head and neck grayish, spotted and banded with black; wing coverts white, the greater tipped with black; speculum green, encircled by black; tertials black on the outer web, edged with white.
It has a swift and well sustained flight, and is found in company with teals and other ducks; it is distributed throughout North America, and is accidental in Europe. The flesh is highly esteemed, especially when they have fed in the rice fields; they breed in the north, and also in Texas, according to Audubon, and the eggs are six to eight. The European widgeon (if. Penelope, Bonap.) is rather smaller, and not uncommon all along the Atlantic coast of the United States; it differs chiefly in having the head and neck reddish brown or cinnamon, the former with a few dusky spots, the top of the head cream-colored, and a few traces of green around the eyes.
European Widgeon (Mareca Penelope).