Living Bird Magazine
- ORDER: Anseriformes
- FAMILY: Anatidae
With a gleaming cinnamon head setting off a body marked in black and business gray, adult male Redheads light up the open water of lakes and coastlines. These sociable ducks molt, migrate, and winter in sometimes-huge flocks, particularly along the Gulf Coast, where winter numbers can reach the thousands. Summers find them nesting in reedy ponds of the Great Plains and West. Female and young Redheads are uniform brown, with the same black-tipped, blue-gray bill as the male.More ID Info
Find This Bird
In summer, your best bet for finding Redheads is to head to the pond-studded “prairie pothole” grasslands of the Great Plains. Much of the rest of the U.S. gets their chance to find them during migration and winter. Migrating Redheads stop over on medium to large reservoirs and lakes. In winter look for them often in shallow waters of the Gulf Coast as well as in the Great Lakes.
- Porrón Americano (Spanish)
- Fuligule à tête rouge (French)
- Cool Facts
- Many ducks lay some of their eggs in other birds’ nests (a strategy known as “brood parasitism”), but female Redheads are perhaps tops in this department. Their targets include other Redheads as well as Mallard, Canvasback, Northern Pintail, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Ruddy Duck, American Wigeon—even Northern Harrier.
- Courting male Redheads perform a gymnastic “head throw” display, bending nearly in half with the neck bent far over the back until the head touches the tail. The bird then snaps its neck forward while giving a loud, catlike mee-ow call.
- Redheads are so exceptionally gregarious they’re referred to as “rafting ducks.” Sometimes they alight at hunting decoys before the hunters have finished setting them up.
- In winter much of the Redhead population forms huge flocks in two Gulf of Mexico bays that share a name, the Laguna Madre of Texas and Laguna Madre of Mexico. Flocks numbering up to 60,000 can occur, feeding on seagrass in the bays.
- The oldest known Redhead was 20 years and 7 months. It was banded in 1976 as a hatchling in Minnesota and shot in Texas in 1997.