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Ring-necked Duck


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.


Latin: Aythya collaris

Average length: M 17", F 16.6"

Average weight: M 1.6 lbs., F 1.5 lbs.


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."

Ring-necked Duck Range Map

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.


Ring-necked duck breeding grounds extend from Alaska and extend all across southern, central and eastern Canada. The heaviest breeding populations exist in central Canada and the area just north of the Great Lakes. Wintering habitats extend across the central and southern United States as well as deep into Mexico. The densest wintering distribution occurs in the Pacific, Mississippi, and Atlantic Flyways with the southern Mississippi Flyway housing the most wintering birds.

Migration 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).