The Ruddy is an odd duck

The Ruddy Duck is a curious little duck in very many ways. No other is anything like it, nor even comes close.
It is a western species, ranging mainly from southern Manitoba to B.C., and north and south from these. There is a fairly good-sized population in Northwestern Ontario, and it breeds sometimes in parts of southern Ontario as well.
The Ruddy is a small duck, weighing in at about a pound, and the colour of the male is quite distinctive. The top and back of its head is black, and it has a prominent white patch on each side of its face.
In the breeding season, the back, wings and breast are brightly chestnut coloured. And its beak is quite bright blue.
In winter, it changes almost completely to a dull, brownish grey, that is, except for its head, which retains the black and white.
The female is quite dull all the time, mostly brown, with darker streaks and patches.
The male often swims with his tail features held erect. This tail is made up of stiff, pointy features. He holds it up at about 90 degrees, especially when it is courting time.
During this courtship, he also goes through some odd antics. He will beat his breast with his beak, shove his beak under water and blow like a kid with a glass of pop, and he will make some very odd clucks and gurgles as well.
The nest is usually built in heavy stands of tall reeds or bulrushes, and is always well out of sight. It is well interwoven, a few inches above the water, and is anchored to the stems nearby. An average nest will have from five to 15 eggs.
Now here is another odd thing. The eggs of this little duck are among the largest of any duck we know–about the same size as those of the common turkey.
It is always a surprise that such a small duck could lay such large eggs.
The females have some other strange tricks, too. Often a female will lay eggs in another duck’s nest. So where they nest in large numbers, it is fairly common to see a family of canvasbacks or redheads with two or three Ruddy ducklings in tow, along with their own family.
And here is another oddity. Sometimes several females will lay eggs all in one nest. This is called a “dump” nest, and may hold a lot of eggs–even up to several dozen. Such nests are just abandoned. No one seems to have a good explanation as to why they do this.
Here is another one. The Ruddy Duck has the ability to make itself sink into the water. It can do this until it is completely submerged so it can disappear by just staying still. Under water, it is an excellent swimmer.
The Ruddy Ducks’ wings are fairly small. It usually has to run on the water, with wings beating furiously, until it gets enough speed to be airborne.
They tend to congregate in large numbers in the winter, in the south or eastern states. Because they live mainly on vegetation, their meat is tasty, so they are sought after by a great many hunters.
The Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis, is a plump and good-looking little bird but he has some funny little quirks. Look for him in the reedy area where there is plenty of water.

Posted in Uncategorized