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Wetland Waterfowl and Wildlife

Ruddy duck

Did you know

Ruddy ducks are one of the smallest ducks. Their tail feathers are often held 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-brown body.

Common name: Ruddy duck
Scientific name: Oxyura jamaicensis
Diet: Herbivorous
Average life span:
Length: 35-43 cm
Weight: 300-850 g

Food & Habitat

Ruddy ducks breed on wetlands of various sizes. They prefer extensive vegetation and ample open water.

Feed in shallow water, eating aquatic plant life.

Breeding & Population

Males migrate to breeding grounds before females and pair shortly after. They are 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.

Ruddy ducks who breed in the Canadian Midwest and the northern U.S. are migratory. Some in the southwest U.S. and Mexico stay there year-round.

Migration

Migrate in small groups to the southern United States, Mexico, and northern South America.

Interesting facts

  • 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.
  • Hens have 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, they prefer to dive rather than fly.