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Redhead

Aythya americana

Diving Ducks Family

Waterfowl Identification

 
Male Redhead
male
Female Redhead
female
Similar Waterfowl:
Scaups
Description:
Male redheads have a reddish head and upper neck with a black lower neck, foreback, and breast. The remaining back is a dark grayish color. The hind back and tail are brownish black. A broad band of light gray extends across the dusky gray wing and out onto the primaries, which helps distinguish it from scaup. The legs and feet are gray and the bill is light blue-gray with a whitish band behind a relatively wide black tip. Female redheads have a reddish brown head, neck, and breast with a buff white chin and throat and an indistinct eye-ring and stripe behind the eye. The flanks are warm brown, contrasting little with the breast, but with buffer fringes. The upper parts are darker and duller brown; with the upper-wing-coverts browner than on the male, otherwise the wing is similar to that of the male. The bill is duller than the male's, but similar in pattern.
Typical Size:
The male and female average 20 inches in length and weigh 2 1/2 pounds. They have a wingspan of 32 inches.
Habitat:
They prefer non-forested environments with water areas sufficiently deep to provide permanent and fairly dense emergent vegetation for nesting.
Breeding:
Redheads breed in the northern prairies of the U.S. and Canada and intermountain marshes of the west. Of the diving ducks, redheads are the most common breeders in the United States. Female redheads lay an average of 7 to 10 eggs.
Diet:
Redheads dive to feed on seeds, rhizomes, and tubers of pondweeds, wild celery, water lilies, grasses, and wild rice. They also feed on mollusks, aquatic insects, and small fish.
Migration:
A significant migration corridor extends from southwestern Manitoba and southeastern Idaho to the Gulf Coast. In addition, some redheads migrate eastward from the northern prairies to the Great Lakes, and then onward to the Chesapeake Bay and Florida. It is estimated that 80% of the North American redhead population winters in the Laguna Madre of Texas and Mexico. Smaller numbers of redheads winter in Apalachee Bay, Florida, along the Chandeleur Islands, Yucatan Peninsula, and the Atlantic coast from Rhode Island to Florida.
Flyway Patterns:
Redheads can most commonly be found using the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi flyways.
Flight Formation:
Irregular "V" formation. Their flight is swift and direct with very rapid wing beats. They reach speeds of 50 MPH.
Voice:
The male has a QUA-QUA or catlike MEOW and the female has a squeaky QUACK.

Redhead Flight and Plumage Characteristics

This guide will help you recognize redheads on the wing - it emphasizes their fall and winter plumage patterns as well as size, shape, and flight characteristics. The largest numbers of redheads use the Central Flyway but they range coast to coast. Migrating flocks travel in V's, but move in irregular formations over feeding areas and are often found associating with canvasback. They usually spend the day grouped in open water and feed morning and evening in shallower sections. The male has a QUA-QUA or catlike MEOW and the female has a squeaky QUACK.

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