Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis)


The Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) is amongst the well-known “stiff-tailed ducks”. A highly aquatic bird, the Ruddy duck spends extensive hours on the water and is adept at diving and sinking below the water surface. They are nocturnal, sleeping the day away. Ruddy ducks have even been seen being pushed along the surface of the water by wind, tucked up in little balls whilst sleeping.

Ruddy Ducks are stout little ducks with short wings and distinctive stiff tails. The face is marked by white cheek patches and a dark cap. Its bill is a blue color. Males differ from the females, having chestnut body plumage. The female is a darker brown and has a line running through her cheek patch. They measure about 35 to 43 cm with a wingspan of 56 to 62 cm. The Ruddy Duck’s tail sticks straight up whilst swimming and these remarkable birds have the ability to sink into the water without diving. These ducks are typically quiet, only making calls during courtship. During this time the male will create little popping noises.

As a New World bird, the Ruddy Duck’s range extends across North America into Mexico. They have however been introduced into the UK. Ruddy Ducks prefer open freshwater and wetlands, also making use of reservoirs. These interesting ducks will gather in flocks. They dine on tubers and seeds of aquatic vegetation as well as small fish, crustaceans, mollusks and aquatic insect larvae. Whilst foraging, the Ruddy duck will dive under the water and filter mud through its bill.

Male Ruddy Ducks perform elaborate mating displays. He will swim with his tail in a fan past the female several times. He creates a drumming sound by slapping his bill on his chest, also causing bubbles to form under his chest. The nest is built in dense vegetation out of grass and cattails which is lined with down. The female Ruddy Duck then lays between 5 and 10 eggs, incubating them for 22 to 26 days. Soon after hatching the offspring are able to swim and feed, though the female keeps a close eye on them. The young Ruddy Ducks are able to fly between 42 and 49 days of age. Migration begins in September. They will travel during the night in massive flocks. They will migrate back again between February and May.