This large diving duck gets its
name from the male's chestnut-red head, which
looks similar to that of the canvasback. Unlike the canvasback, however, the
male redhead has a high, up-and-downish forehead.
His feet are bluish gray, and his eyes are
orange-yellow. The head of the female is a
yellowish brown that is somewhat darker on the
crown. She has a slight pale ring around her
brown eyes, and her feet are bluish in color.
Both the male and female have a pale blue bill
with a white ring around the black tip.
Redheads range from southern
Canada to the northern United States (Washington
to Maine). Some populations breed in the prairie
pothole region of the northern Great Plains;
there are also some breeding populations in
central Alaska. Their winter range extends from
California to the southern Atlantic Coast and
south into central Mexico. They are found on
shallow freshwater lakes, ponds, and marshes, so
long as the body of water is at least 28 inches
deep so that the ducks can dive; they are also
found on brackish and coastal bays and lakes.
Courtship is initiated by the
female. Pairing begins in late winter, but
courtship behavior may continue into the spring.
The male deserts the female as soon as eggs are
Nesting begins in midsummer, in
marshes and prairie potholes. Nest sites may be
located on dense vegetation over water, on
islands, or on dry land. If the nest is on land,
water must be nearby. If at all possible the
female will build her nest from hardstem bulrush
Three types of egg-laying
behaviors have been observed among redheads.
"Normal" egg-laying involves the hen
laying and incubating her own eggs in her own
nest. "Semiparastic" egg-laying entails
the hen laying her eggs in more than one nest,
none of which are built by her.
"Parasitic" egg-laying occurs when the
hen lays her eggs in another redhead's nest after
incubation has occurred. The parasitic female's
eggs will probably not hatch, however, because
they are off schedule from the other eggs.
Hens usually lay one egg a day,
but may skip a few days before the entire clutch
Redheads are known for the
early desertion of their young, as the mother
leaves the ducklings as soon as they are able to
Redheads feed primarily on
vegetable matter obtained from the bottom of a
body of water. They will also take mollusks from
the bottom, and will occasionally dabble on the
surface of shallow marshes for insects.
Habits and Behaviors
Redheads migrate south in September and return
north in March. They migrate in V-formations at
great speeds, flying for long distances in the
morning and evening.
Redheads are normally found singly, in pairs,
or in flocks up to 15 birds. At popular wintering
areas, however, they can be found by the
hundreds, and sometimes thousands.
When settled in deep water, a flock of
redheads may suddenly rise into the air en masse
for no apparent reason.
genus & species Aythya americana
Animal Diversity Web http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Aythya_americana/
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