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Ruddy Duck

Oxyura jamaicensis ORDER: ANSERIFORMES FAMILY: ANATIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Ruddy Ducks are compact, thick-necked waterfowl with seemingly oversized tails that they habitually hold upright. Breeding males are almost cartoonishly bold, with a sky-blue bill, shining white cheek patch, and gleaming chestnut body. They court females by beating their bill against their neck hard enough to create a swirl of bubbles in the water. This widespread duck breeds mostly in the prairie pothole region of North America and winters in wetlands throughout the U.S. and Mexico.

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Calls

Ruddy Ducks are usually silent. The female gives a nasal call to beckon her brood, a high-pitched call to ward off amorous males, and a hiss when threatened. The male has only one call, a belch-like sound given during courtship displays.

Other Sounds

Courting males make hollow tapping sounds by slapping their bills across their chests as part of courtship displays. They also make popping sounds with their feet while running across the water during display flights.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Find This Bird

Look for Ruddy Ducks from fall through spring on open water, both inland and in protected coastal areas such as harbors and small bays. During the day, they often sleep with their heads tucked, and they gather in tight flocks. Because of this, these little divers often look like gray-brown or chestnut blobs with a long, rounded tail (for a duck, anyway) held up at an angle. In summer, look for them swimming and diving in wetlands of the prairie pothole region and the interior West. The male’s white cheek patch is often distinctive from great distances.