A combination of rusty red head, yellow eyes, and rounded head shape help distinguish males of this species from other male diving ducks. Uniformly brown females are less patterned than other female diving ducks. In flight, pale gray trailing edge of wing contrasts with darker leading edge. Male: Rufous head with yellow eye. Bill has black tip, a weak white subterminal band, and pale bluish base. Breast and undertail areas are black. Back and sides are medium gray, belly is white. In Summer and early Fall males assume a duller plumage with more brown in flanks and a brown (not black) breast resulting in less contrast overall. Female: Uniform medium brown overall with whitish belly. Cheeks are slightly paler than the crown and nape, may show limited white on the chin and has a narrow halo of whitish feathering surrounding the eye. Bill similar to male's but with darker base and the subterminal white band is much less apparent.
Both males and females told from similar Canvasbacks by smaller overall size and the lack of a long evenly sloped forehead to bill profile. Both male and female Canvasbacks are much paler on the back and flanks than Redheads. Male Eurasian Wigeons are very similar in overall pattern, but they are typically seen grazing on land and they show a distinctive creamy forecrown, a white patch on the lower flanks, and a rosy-brown breast. Unlike other female diving ducks, Redheads show minimal contrast between the back and flanks or the flanks and the breast. Though their faces can be pretty pale, they lack the obvious concentrations of white feathering around the base bill shown by female scaups and female Ring-necked Ducks. The latter species also shows a more peaked hindcrown, and exhibits more contrast between a dark dusky brown crown and a paler gray-brown face.
Length: 46 (cm) Wingspan: 74 (cm)
Usually silent. Female gives a thin grrrrp.
Breeds near seasonal shallow wetlands. Winters primarily in shallow coastal marshes, occasionally on inland lakes.
Females are known for laying eggs in the nests of other Redheads and other species.
Dives and dabbles for aquatic plants and invertebrates.
Expanded Life History
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