Small, plump diving duck 14” to 16” long with an average wingspan of 23”. The plumage of drakes varies with the seasons. In winter it is gray-brown with white cheek patches, while in breeding season the body feathers are a warm brown, feathers on the top of the head are black, and the usually black bill turns blue. Hens are gray-brown and have a dark stripe across their white cheek patches. Ruddy ducks also are distinguished by their forward-tilting tail.
Brackish waters of tidal rivers and inlets.
Ruddy ducks of the Atlantic Flyway typically breed across Canada and migrate to the Chesapeake in autumn.
Mainly aquatic plants, insects, and worms.
Silent except for courting males, which make a soft clicking sound by striking the bill against the breast. Listen to a sample (Requires RealPlayer)
Like only a few other species of waterfowl, ruddy ducks have the ability to elude potential predators by slowly submerging like feathered submarines—out of sight, out of danger.
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.