Oxyura jamaicensis

Ruddy drake. ©DUC

Most duck species have one or two characteristics that make them different. But with ruddy ducks, almost everything is unusual. Although abundant in summer, few people get a glimpse of them. Ruddy ducks are shy, spending much of their time surrounded by the cattails that grow in shallow water at the edge of wetlands.

Appearance

  • Small size
  • Tail features often help erect above the water
  • The male ruddy duck’s upper body, neck and sides are a deep chestnut. He has dark brown wings, a white belly, a sky-blue bill, white cheeks and a black-capped head.
  • The female’s cheek patch has a single dark line through it. She has a slate-grey bill, no black cap and a grey-brow body.

Breeding

  • Ruddy duck males migrate to breeding grounds before females and pair shortly after.
  • A more aggressive duck, defending the breeding and nesting territory.
  • Average clutch size is eight large eggs. Incubation is about 25 days. Ducklings are able to fly at 42 to 49 days.

Habitat:

  • Breed on wetlands of various sizes.
  • Prefer extensive vegetation and ample open water.

Diet

  • Feed on aquatic plant life in shallow water.

Interesting Facts

  • A ruddy duck hen has the remarkable ability to lay a clutch of eggs, at the rate of one per day, that can exceed her own body mass.
  • When confronted with danger, ruddy ducks prefer to dive rather than fly.

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