Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)


Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family:    Anatidae
Size:    Length: 11 to 16 inches (28 to 41 cm)  Wingspan: 21 to 25 inches (53 to 64 cm)
Weight: 10.5 to 28 ounces (300 to 795 g)
Diet: Mostly plant matter, as well as insects and larvae
Distribution: North, Central and South America, as well as Britain
Young:  5 to 15 chicks, once a year
Animal Predators:  Foxes, hawks, crows, and domestic cats and dogs
IUCN Status: No special status
Terms: Young: Duckling  Male: Drake  Female:  Duck  Group:  Brace or Flock
Lifespan: Average 8 years



·     Ruddy ducks are relatively quiet birds that never make a quacking sound.

·     The ruddy duck is one of a group of ducks known as stifftails.” 

·     The female sometimes lays several of her eggs in the nests of other female ducks.

·     Ruddy ducks can dive up to a depth of 10 feet (m) underwater.



During spring and summer, the males are brilliantly coloured, with a broad, blue bill, white cheeks, a black head and brown back, while the colours of females are more subdued. Females also have a single dark line crossing each cheek. Towards autumn, the colouring of males diminishes—their bill and feathers become grey. Ruddy ducks have a long, stiff tail that they hold erect, distinguishing them from many other duck species. Females are smaller than males. 



Ruddy ducks can be found throughout almost all of the United States and in southern Canada during the summer months. These birds are not fond of the cold and migrate south when cold weather approaches. They can also be found down through Mexico, in various areas of South America and the West Indies. Captives were introduced to southern Britain and now live in feral flocks. They can be found in freshwater lakes, marshes and ponds with tall weeds or plants that supply cover and protection.


Feeding Habits

Their diet mostly consists of plant matter, but they also feed on insects and larvae. They are nocturnal feeders and obtain their food by making surface dives. 



Male ruddy ducks attract a female in early spring with a courtship display known as “bubbling.” The male slaps his bill on his chest, which creates a rippling effect on the water as air is forced from his feathers. The female appears unimpressed at first, and it may take weeks for a bond to form. Once the birds have mated, they stay together throughout the season while their chicks hatch, grow and become independent. The female and male build their nest together from grass, lined with down, hidden amongst reeds and bulrushes. The female lays approximately one egg per day and incubates them for an average of 25 days, while the male protects the nest and brings her food. Despite her small size, the eggs are bigger than those of many larger ducks. The ducklings follow their parents and swim in close formation. Within seven to eight weeks, they can fly and begin to head out on their own.  



Ruddy ducks live in loose flocks during the winter season, and pair up during the spring and summer. They are good divers and underwater swimmers, and sometimes will dive under the water to avoid predators. They tend to be slow on take offs, needing a long take off, and appear to struggle to become airborne. When in flight, their wings beat extremely rapidly. These ducks sleep on the water during the day and are sometimes blown across a lake on windy days.



Ruddy ducks are not of conservation concern.



Ruddy Duck Wildlife Fact File, IM Pub, US

National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America (1999)