Wigeon duck bird (male) is strikingly coloured, with a yellow blaze on the crown, rich rufous head, salmon-coloured breast and pearl-grey back and flanks, and with a bold pattern around the stern of a black vent and tail with white side panels on the rear flank. After the breeding season the eclipse plumage is duller, more like the female but with darker upperparts and richer rufous flanks, but at all seasons the male wigeon duck bird shows a striking white wing-patch that is visible at rest. The female is more demure, typically paler dull rufous on the flanks contrasting with a white belly, a grey-brown head and brown upperparts. This species has a distinctive shape, with a small, pale blue, black-tipped bill, peaked head and compact, short-necked form.
Typically breeding above 55 degrees north, and favouring shallow freshwater lakes and ponds in the boreal zone, especially where there is tree cover nearby (although it avoids densely forested areas). In winter wigeon duck bird can be found on a variety of wetland habitats, ideally close to the coast where it utilizes tidal mud, shallow bays and saltmarshes, although it is often found grazing on inland flooded grasslands and pastures.
A typical sound of coastal marshes in winter, when flocks can be heard making a cacophony of musical whistles. The Wigeon Duck Bird (male) is highly vocal on the ground, on water and in flight, uttering a loud, excited "whee-OO-oo". At close range one or two short additional syllables can be heard preceding this whistle call, such as "uh-uh-wheooow". The wigeon duck bird (female) has a growling purr, which can be described as "urrr-urrr-urrr-urrr", "rerr rerr rerr" or "krrr'krrr'krrr".