In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). The northward migration of these ducks to breeding areas usually occurs from February into April and the southern from cold to warmer areas from September through October annually. Fax: (410) 267-5777, © 2020 Chesapeake Bay Program All Rights Reserved They spend the winter throughout the southern half of the breeding range, also moving into wintering habitat that spans most of the United States and extends through Mexico to Central America. Above, a ruddy duck dives in Spa Creek in Annapolis, Md., on Jan. 18, 2018. About 86 percent of the breeding population is concentrated in the prairie pothole region of south-central Canada and north-central United States. Their wingspan is 53.3 to 61 cm (21 to 24 in) and they weigh 0.5-0.6 Kg (1.1-1.3 lbs). Generally speaking, ruddies winter in the southeastern U.S. Molting to change to breeding (alternate or summer) plumage or non-breeding (basic or winter) plumage occurs twice a year. To attract a mate, males go through an extravagant courtship ritual that includes swimming around a female, slapping his chest with his bill, making several calls, and running across the water’s surface. Resting on the surface of the water, they can slowly sink under without causing a ripple in the water. Their wings beat very rapidly while flying. The nest is usually made of dead, dry plant materials, though some are built entirely with green vegetation. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA. They dive to find prey. They also eat zooplankton, clams, snails, mollusks, brine shrimp, and insects, especially midge larvae. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY, USA. Privacy Policy, Chesapeake Bay Program These ducks require areas that have open water as well as vegetative cover for protection during nesting. Ducks, Geese, and Waterfowl(Order: Anseriformes, Family:Anatidae). Ruddy ducks can disappear from sight without diving. Reproduction begins with an elaborate display by the male in front of the female. They begin to develop feathers at about two weeks of age and fledge 42 to 49 days after hatching. Available from The rapid strokes of their small wings produce a whirring sound. (Photo by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program), A ruddy duck male displays a bright blue bill during mating season, seen with a female in the foreground. USGS Patuxtent Wildlife Research Center (2014b). They breed in freshwater marshes and ponds. A. and A. S. Love. Midge larvae form a large part of their diet. They live in the Shorebird Sanctuary exhibit outdoors on the second floor. Males are dull brown in autumn, turning grayish-brown like females in winter. She firmly attaches the nest to growing reeds, often arching the reeds over the nest to conceal it. Pairs of wandering Ruddy Ducks are more aggressive than and can out-compete White-headed Ducks for nesting sites and food. The population in Chesapeake Bay dropped significantly between 1955 and 1979, probably because of habitat degradation from exotic species invasion and pollution. (2002). Ruddy Ducks are diving ducks that belong to the family of stiff-tailed ducks, named for their stiff tail that acts like a rudder. Very awkward on land, they spend almost all of their time in shallow water at the edge of wetlands where there is an abundance of vegetation to hide in. Its long, stiff tail is often held straight up in the air. Ruddy Ducks spend the vast majority of their time on the water. They can be identified in flight by their dark wings, white cheeks (on males) and stiff tail. Its legs are set far back on its body. By using our website, you agree to our cookie policy. They forage almost exclusively by diving but occasionally will skim the water’s surface of the water, straining food items from it. Breeding occurs in spring and summer in the Prairie Pothole region of the Midwest and southern Canada. (2019). Ruddy ducks can live as long as 13 years, but rarely live longer than two to three years. Ruddy Ducks are brood parasites or parasitic egg layers. Even though they are small, they lay some of the largest eggs of any duck in the world. (2014). On land they walk very awkwardly because of the far back placement of their legs so they prefer to escape danger by diving deep and swimming away from it instead of taking to the air. Laurel: US Fish and Wildlife Service. The precocious chicks are able to dive skillfully when only two days old. Ruddy Duck is not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. Males are easy to recognize because they have blue-colored beaks during the breeding season. They can be found throughout the year in the U.S. and Mexico, and during the breeding season in Canada. Ruddy ducks are somewhat unique in that they often make their long migrations at night. Visits the Bay region from autumn through spring, then spends the summer in the Prairie Pothole region of North and South Dakota and southern Canada. They are fast fliers but have little maneuverability in the air, and they tend to swim and dive rather than fly to escape predators—which include Red-tailed Hawks, Great Horned Owls, mink, raccoons, and red foxes. Active, well-developed, and covered with down (dark above and lighter below). It starts as a platform and becomes more bowl-like throughout the construction process, with an inner cup measuring 4–12 inches across and 0.5–5 inches deep. The ruddy duck does not breed in the Chesapeake Bay region. Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis), version 2.0. The size of the eggs laid by female Ruddy Ducks is the largest in relation to body size of all ducks. Very awkward on land, they spend almost all of their time in shallow water at the edge of wetlands where there is an abundance of vegetation to hide in. Ruddy Ducks breed in wetlands and reservoirs from southwestern Canada through the western United States and Mexico, as well as in scattered sites in the eastern United States and on the Caribbean islands.