A few iconic features of the Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) are their stiff, upright, black tail while in the water, their bright blue bill (during breeding season), and a neck that is almost as wide as their head. The mid-section of the body is a ruddy brown during the breeding season. Their coverts are the same color as the body, the speculum is gray, and the primaries have brown on one side of the feather and gray on the other side. The drakes also display a black cap on top of the white plumage covering the rest of the bright white face. Females have the same general plumage on the head with dark gray crown. Remaining plumage is a lighter gray/brown. The characteristic bill on the hen ranges from a muted blue to a slate gray coloring. During The North American duck season, ruddy ducks are best described as drab brown stiff-tailed ducks.
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The ruddy duck has a unique breeding ecology, not achieving breeding plumage until spring and well beyond North American duck hunting seasons, which cease in late-January. During the breeding season, drake ruddy ducks color up brightly, becoming fiercely territorial. One male per small pond entertains female candidates with elaborate display rituals that include using water to create drumming sounds against their chest.
Ruddy Ducks are residents to the west coast of the United States and Mexico, and are one of the more aggressive duck species, especially during the breeding season; will fight off other waterfowl species, as well as other members of their own species. While being native to the Americas, the Ruddy Duck has a presence in Europe, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and Spain due to the escape of captive ducks in the 1950s.
There are also migrating ruddy duck populations populations, too, with breeding grounds are central Canada, the western half of the United States, and most of Mexico. Ruddy Ducks are most commonly found in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and North and South Dakota. The preferred habitat during this time includes marshes and reservoirs. In relation to their small, compact size, this species lays the largest eggs, and clutches will often weigh the same as the hen that laid them. The wintering population extends through the southern half of the United States and Mexico, with the majority found in California, along both sides of the Mississippi River (in the south), Florida, and North Carolina.