Medium-sized diving duck 18” to 23” long with an average wingspan of 33”. Drakes have a round, rust-colored head with gray body plumage and a black breast and tail. Hens are brown with a flecked patch on the face. Both sexes have a striking gray wing stripe and a blue-gray bill with a narrow white band above the black tip.
Tidal rivers and bays.
Redheads typically breed in from Alaska and the “prairie pothole” country of western Canada to the upper American Midwest and even as far south as California and Colorado. Those entering the Atlantic Flyway follow a typical autumn-spring migration pattern to and from wintering grounds in the Bay region.
Drakes make catlike mewing and purring sounds; hens have a squawky quack. Listen to a sample (Requires RealPlayer)
Historically only about 10 to 12 percent of the North American population of redheads has overwintered in the Chesapeake. Today, as with the American black duck, redheads are in serious decline, due in large part to habitat destruction and hunting pressure. Redhead females also are notoriously uninvolved parents; an estimated 40 to 50 percent of hens lay their eggs in the nests of other ducks, and hatchlings typically are left to fend for themselves even before they can fly.
The decoy pictured is from the collection of the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art and was photographed by Middleton Evans. Waterfowl sounds are courtesy of the Macaulay Lab of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.