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Ruddy Duck


Breeding activity of the ruddy duck is centered in the Prairie Pothole Region of North America, as well as the Intermountain West. Small numbers also breed in the interior highlands of Mexico, the freshwater marshes of Baja California, the southern Rocky Mountains and the southern Great Plains. Most females do not breed until two years of age. Ruddy duck females lay an average of 8 eggs and construct nests in cattail and bulrush over water.


Latin: Oxyura jamaicensis

Average length: M 15.4", F 15"

Average weight: M 1.20 lbs., F 1.19 lbs.


The conformation of the small ruddy duck is distinctive: a short, thick neck; chunky body; stubby wings and a fan-shaped tail composed of stiff feathers. The male ruddy duck has a brilliant rusty-brown back, rump, neck, scapulars, chest, sides and flanks. The crown, rear ear coverts and hindneck are black, and the throat and sides of the head below the eyes are white. The bill is bright sky blue and the legs and feet are grayish. Female ruddy ducks have grayish-brown neck and body plumage. The sides of the head and neck are dull buff-brown with a single dusky horizontal stripe crossing a pale-gray cheek patch. The bill is dark gray and the legs and feet are grayish.

Ruddy Duck Range Map

Food Habits

Ruddy ducks dive to feed on pondweeds, algae and wild celery, as well as the seeds of sedges, smartweeds and grasses. They also eat aquatic insects and their larvae, shellfish and crustaceans. During the breeding season they feed mainly on invertebrates, primarily chironomid larvae and pupae.


While survey estimates are variable, overall trends suggest that ruddy duck breeding populations in the United States and Canada are increasing by roughly 0.9% per year.

Migration and Wintering

Ruddy ducks are thought to travel at night. The Pacific Coastal states and the western coast of Mexico winter roughly half of the ruddy duck population. The remaining birds are split fairly equally between the eastern coast and the interior of the continent. The ruddy duck also is a fairly common resident in the Caribbean.