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Ring-necked Duck

Latin: Aythya collaris
Average length: M 17", F 16.6"
Average weight: M 1.6 lbs., F 1.5 lbs.

Description: Although male ring-necked ducks superficially resemble their counterparts in greater and lesser scaup, their peaked, angular head profile, distinctive white bill markings and uniformly dark upper wings distinguish them. Female ring-necked ducks most closely resemble female redheads, but are distinguished by their smaller size; peaked, angular head profile; and pale region around the face. Male ring-necked ducks have an iridescent black head, neck, breast and upperparts. The belly and flanks are whitish to grayish, with a distinctive triangular white wedge extending upward in the area in front of the folded wing. The bill is slate with a white border around the base and nares, and a pale white band behind the black tip.

The "ringneck" name is derived from a faint brownish ring around the base of the neck, which is visible only upon close inspection. The legs and feet are gray-blue and the iris is yellow. Ring-necked ducks are silent except in display, when a low whistling note is uttered. Female ring-necked ducks have a brown head with a black crown, light brown cheeks and chin and a white eye ring. A narrow white line extends from the eye to the back of the head. The bill is slate with a faint white band near the tip. The neck, back, sides and flanks are brown and the belly is white. The legs and feet are gray-blue and the iris is brown. Female vocalizes a soft, rolling "trrr."

Breeding: Ring-necked ducks breed from southeastern and east-central Alaska, central British Columbia eastward through northern Saskatchewan to Newfoundland, and south to northeastern California, southeastern Arizona, southern Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, northern New York and Massachusetts. They prefer sedge-meadow marshes, swamps and bogs surrounded by woody vegetation. Female ring-necked ducks nest in flooded or floating emergent vegetation and lay an average of 8-10 eggs.

Migrating and Wintering: The majority of ring-necked ducks migrate through the Central and Mississippi flyways to inland wintering grounds along the Gulf of Mexico and the southern Atlantic coast of the United States. In winter, ring-necked ducks use a variety of habitats, such as fresh and brackish marshes, shallow lakes, estuarine bays and coastal lagoons. Ring-necked ducks are winter visitors to Central America and the northern Caribbean, and vagrant to Trinidad and Venezuela (Scott and Carbonell, 1986).

Food habits: Ring-necked ducks dive in shallow water to feed on the tubers, seeds and leaves of moist-soil and aquatic plants (pondweeds, coontail, water milfoil, hydrilla, sedges, grasses, wild rice, etc.). They also eat aquatic insects, snails and clams.

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