With its perky tail, plump body and bold coloration, the ruddy duck is a fun waterfowl for any birder to spot, and its blue bill and stiff upright tail make it unmistakable.
- Bill: Blue in breeding males, gray or black in winter males and females
- Size: 15 inches long with 22-inch wingspan, stubby appearance
- Colors: Blue, chestnut, white, black, brown
- Markings: Dimorphic species. Breeding males have bright chestnut body, whitish brown chest and abdomen, black cap and back of neck, white cheeks and a stiff black tail that is often held upright. Females have a black or gray bill, dingy white cheek with a brown stripe, brown cap and back, lighter underparts with brown barring and a stiff tail. Winter males resemble females but with white cheeks and no cheek stripe.
Aquatic plants, seeds
Habitat and Migration:
Ruddy ducks are a common migratory species throughout the United States and Canada and can be found in marshy ponds, lakes and bays. Winter populations often stay in the southeastern U.S. including Texas and Mexico, while summer populations are more common in the central United States and Canada. Ruddy ducks can be found year round in California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Baja California.
These ducks are usually silent but do have a short, rapid chatter call with an offbeat undulation at the end.
Ruddy ducks are a diving duck species that can sink slowly beneath the water or dive rapidly for protection. They will frequently swim underwater if they feel threatened, but they can seem sluggish when floating on the surface. They form tight flocks on open water with greater numbers after the nesting season.
Ruddy ducks are monogamous birds that typically raise one brood of 5-15 eggs per year, though southern populations may have two broods. The female parent incubates the eggs for 24-26 days and the young birds will leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching to forage for food with their parents. First flight generally occurs between 43-48 days after hatching.
Attracting Ruddy Ducks:
No duck species are regularly backyard birds, but ruddy ducks may visit yards where large, marshy waterways exist. Leaving long, natural grass available for shelter and nesting can help attract these birds.
- Masked Duck (Nomonyx dominicus)
- White-Cheeked Pintail (Anas bahamensis)