Aythya americana

Picture of a male redhead duck
Image by Kevin Bercaw on Wikimedia, CC BY 3.0

Physical: Redheads are diving ducks named for their distinctive red heads. Males have rusty red heads, black chests and tail, and a grey body. Females are brown, with grey secondary feathers on the wings, a white belly, and paler patches on the chin and around the eyes.

Habitat: Habitats vary by season. In the summer, they stay in freshwater marshes. When nesting, they prefer large prairie or mountain valley marshes. Migrating flocks will congregate together on large lakes. And in the winter, they return to coastal bays, lagoons, and large inland lakes. You will find redheads in the Barnegat Bay during the winter.

Feeding: Redheads eat a mixed diet of plants and insects. They eat the leaves, seed, stems, and roots of various aquatic plants (shoalgrass, pondweeds, sedges, waterlilies, etc.) In the summer, they will eat more insects.

Breeding: Adults begin pairing up in midwinter. They build nests in dense marsh vegetation, over water. Redheads, however, are parasitic breeders who will lay eggs in other birds’ nests. This includes other redheads and other bird species, who they nest very closely with. As a result, it’s hard to track what the actual average clutch size is, but most redhead nests have somewhere between 9-14 dull white or pale olive eggs. Females incubate eggs for 23-29 days.

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