Redhead
FWS Focus

Overview

Characteristics
Overview

Redheads are large diving ducks that feed by diving below the water’s surface looking for plant tubers and other foods. This species often occurs in large flocks, called rafts, especially during winter months. This duck is known for its rounded, bright red head, two tone bill and gray back.

Scientific Name

Aythya americana
Common Name
Redhead
Kingdom

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Genus

Identification Numbers

TSN:

Characteristics

Characteristic category

Habitat

Characteristics
Habitat

Redheads aggregate in small flocks on water deep enough to produce submersed aquatic vegetation, which are an important food source during most of the year. During migration, they gather in large flocks on big bodies of water like lakes, reservoirs and bays, but they will also use small and shallow wetlands when available. In winter, redheads can spend considerable amounts of time in coastal marshes and off shore, returning occasionally to freshwater wetlands inland to drink. Redheads are less common in the southeast than many other species of dabbling ducks, and few national wildlife refuges target management for this species. However, they likely benefit from freshwater emergent wetland management for other species.

Lake
Wetland
Characteristic category

Food

Characteristics
Food

Redheads primarily eat vegetative parts and tubers of submersed aquatic plants, but they will also eat seeds, mollusks and other invertebrates. They are highly adaptable foragers and will feed by diving in deep water or dabbling at the surface in shallow water.

Characteristic category

Physical Characteristics

Characteristics
Size & Shape

True to its name, this species has a reddish head with a rounded steep forehead, a blue-gray bill and its sides and back are grayish. The hen has a brown head and body and also a gray bill. The wings appear light tan in flight.

MeasurementsLength: 16.5 to 21.3 in (42 to 54 cm)Wingspan: 29.5 to 31 in (75 to 79 cm)

Sound

Drakes purr and meow; hens have a loud squak, higher than a hen mallard's.

Characteristic category

Behavior

Characteristics
Behavior

In the air, they give the impression of always being in a hurry. Usually spend the day in large rafts in deep water; feed morning and evening in shallower sections.

Characteristic category

Lifecycle

Characteristics
Reproduction

The female builds a floating nest attached to aquatic vegetation to hold it in place, and lines it with down feathers. They lay 10 to 16 buff colored eggs.

Geography

Characteristics
Range

Redheads breed mainly in the Prairie Pothole Region of north-central U.S. and south-central Canada. During their migration, most redheads follow the Central Flyway towards the Laguna Madre along the Gulf of Mexico coast where they can often be seen in saltwater during the winter months. They can be especially abundant on playas and reservoirs of western Oklahoma and Texas during fall migration.

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