REDHEAD – (Aythya americana)
DESCRIPTION: The Redhead is a diving duck with a crimson red head (hence the name) and neck in the breeding male (drake), hence the species name. The breast and tail are black. The back and sides are finely striated light grey, the outer wing feathers are white with a grey edge, and the under parts are white, as well as the under side of the wings. The legs and feet are black, and the bill is light grey with a black tip. The tail is dark grey, and the eyes are yellow.
Females have the same brown grey plumage year-round, with white under parts, and their eyes are brown. Non-breeding males have a brown head instead of a red one. The ducklings have a brown head with generally brown upper parts and sides, with a yellow face, throat and cheeks. This is a duck of average size, measuring approximately 35 cm (14 inches) long.
NAME: The Latin genus name ‘Aythya’ comes from Greek and refers to a ‘kind of waterbird’.
HABITAT: Wetlands of open country in the Prairies, with lots of emergent vegetation to provide adequate shelter and sources of food.
DIET: Mainly carnivorous diet during the breeding season – molluscs, snails, insects and crustaceans, and a mainly vegetarian diet in the winter (plant material). When feeding, redheads associate with other duck species.
NESTING: Redhead nests are built among dense vegetation on the water, or on a small island near water. About a dozen light green eggs are laid, which are incubated by the female. The ducklings are led to the water a day after hatching, and they can feed themselves. These ducks are brood parasites, meaning the females sometimes lay their eggs in the nest of other duck species.
DISTRIBUTION: The main breeding range is the Prairie Pothole Region and the Great Basin (USA). They spend the winter in most of the contiguous United States, and the northern half of Mexico. Some individuals have been observed on Hawaii.
ON PEI: The redhead duck does not breed on Prince Edward Island. Its occurrence in the fall ranges from rare to uncommon, depending on the years. For the other seasons, sightings are ‘accidental’.
CONSERVATION: In spite of being legally hunted the population of the redhead duck appears stable overall, having increased in some areas while having decreased in others (Great Basin, Idaho). Habitat loss due to wetland drainage is now mitigated with conservation programs in some areas.
NOTES: This duck is a ‘pochard’, a type of diving duck with a large head and legs placed toward the end of their body, allowing for good swimming but at the expense of good walking.
SIMILAR SPECIES: The redhead is very similar to the Common Pochard of Europe. Also: Canvasback, and females of Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, and Ringed-necked Duck
https://www.mba-aom.ca/jsp/toc.jsp (Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas)
https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/redhead Missouri Department of Conservation)
REDHEAD – (Aythya americana)