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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Breed on wetlands of various sizes.
- Prefer extensive vegetation and ample open water.
- Feed on aquatic plant life in shallow water.
- 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.