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IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

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.


Male Redheads make a distinctive, wheezy whee-ough or catlike meow when courting, greeting a partner, or after copulation. Disturbance will also elicit the call. Males also make a low, guttural err sound when threatening other Redheads. Females repeat a similar but quieter err when inciting the male, and a deeper, guttural kurr-kurr-kurr in threat displays and when hunting for a nest site.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

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.



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