Saturday, May 7, 2011

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Ducks are in a separate tribe of waterfowl alongside the other ducks.  The tribe is called stiff-tailed ducks since they often hold their tails erect--often, but, as you can see in the female in the upper photo, not always.  (The photo is from the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in the Florida panhandle.) The Ruddy Duck is the only stiff-tailed duck expected in Minnesota.  Birders should be alert to the fact that Hooded Mergansers also occasionally hold their tails out of the water.

Breeding males are brightly colored, as in the lower photo taken several years ago at the Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern South Dakota.  Males bob their heads during courtship.  Pairs are usually monogamous, although some males are polygamous (Brua 2002).  Winter males are drably plumaged, sort of a white-cheeked version of the female.

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