Redhead (Aythya americana)
What they look like: Males in breeding plumage have a gray body, black rump and breast, and a bright reddish-brown head. They have a yellow eye and a light blue bill with a black tip (see photo). When males are in non-breeding plumage (from July to September) they are dark brown, but still have a dull reddish head.
Where they live: This species is common in freshwater ponds, lakes, wetlands, and slow-moving rivers at low elevations over much of eastern Washington. After the Mallard, the Redhead is generally the most common duck of the Columbia River.
Redheads nest near marshy freshwater lakes, ponds, rivers and wetlands in prairie zones. During migration they gather on large lakes and spend the winter on sheltered saltwater bays and estuaries.
What they eat: They eat leaves, stems, seeds and roots of aquatic plants. Aquatic invertebrates are also eaten, especially during the summer.
Redheads feed by "dabbling" and upending, meaning that they tip their bodies into water, bill first, tail in the air to reach below the surface with its bill in the shallows of ponds, lakes, streams and swamps.
Nesting: Redheads build nests close together in dense marshes, especially in areas with dense bulrush, near shallow water or on dry land. The clutch size usually ranges between 6-14 eggs that the female incubates for about 23-29 days. The ducklings are lead to water as soon as their soft, downy feathers are dry. The young first fly about 60-65 days (2 months) after hatching.
Behavior: Redheads typically gather in small flocks, sometimes mixed with other duck species. In the winter they known to join huge flocks, with thousands of birds.
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photos by Tim Knight
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