Ruddy ducks are native to North and South America. These stiff-tailed ducks nest in western and central Canada and much of the western United States as far east as the Great Lakes region and south to central Texas, throughout Baja California, and to the transvolcanic belt in Mexico. Wintering range extends throughout most of southern North America, from California through the Great Lakes region and the Atlantic coast south of southern Maine to as far south as western Guatemala and El Salvador. Ruddy ducks were introduced to England in 1960 in Gloucestershire. From there these ducks have colonized Ireland and Belgium. Ruddy ducks introduced in Europe are migratory birds from the eastern United States and Mexico. Two subspecies including Oxyura jamaicensis ferruginea and Oxura jamaicensis andina can be found in the West Indies, Columbia, and throughout the Andes Mountains.
Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDING: In North America, the northern prairies are the most important breeding areas. Nesting occurs in east-central Alaska (casually), and from central and northeastern British Columbia, southwestern Mackenzie, northern Alberta, northern Saskatchewan, and central Manitoba east across southern Canada to Nova Scotia, south to southern California, central Arizona, southern New Mexico, western and southern Texas, southwestern Louisiana, and northern Florida, with scattered, sporatic, or former breeding in several other areas in U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Breeds also in El Salvador, the West Indies (Bahamas [New Providence], Greater Antilles, and the Lesser Antilles south to Grenada). NON-BREEDING: in North America, winters primarily on the Pacific coast (mainly California, especially the Salton Sea area), secondarily on the Atlantic coast, and with about 20% of the population in the interior of the continent (the majority in Texas and Louisiana, plus a concentration along the Mississippi River between Mississippi and Arkansas). Winters southward from southern British Columbia, Idaho, Colorado, Kansas, and the Great Lakes, and on the Atlantic coast mainly in Chesapeake Bay and south through Pamlico Sound, south throughout the southern U.S. and most of Mexico to Honduras (sight record for Nicaragua), and throughout the Bahamas. Areas in North America where migrants may concentrate include the Klamath Basin in northern California, Minidoka NWR in Idaho, marshes adjacent to the Great Salt Lake, Malheur NWR in Oregon, Carson Sink in Nevada, and the region extending from North Dakota across Minnesota, Wisconsin, and southeastern Michigan to Chesapeake Bay. RESIDENT: in the Antilles and South America. INTRODUCED: established in England. Casual in Hawaii, southeastern Alaska, southern Yukon, and Bermuda. (AOU 1983, Sibley and Monroe 1990). See Bellrose (1980) for further details on the breeding and winter distribution in North America.
A small (15-16 inches), oddly-shaped duck, the male Ruddy Duck in summer is most easily identified by its chestnut-brown body, black cap, white cheeks, and blue bill. In winter, the male loses much of its color, becoming gray-brown above and mottled gray below with a gray bill while retaining its solid white cheeks. Females are similar to winter males, but have gray-brown cheeks. This species is one of several “stiff-tailed” ducks, all of which have short, stiff tails which are often held erect. The Ruddy Duck breeds widely in the western United States, southwestern Canada, and western Mexico. Smaller numbers breed further east in the Great Lakes region and along the St. Lawrence River. In winter, this species vacates northern portions of its range, and may be found at lower elevations across the U.S.and most of Mexico. Other non-migratory populations occur in Central America and in the West Indies, and an introduced population breeds in Britain. Ruddy Ducks breed in a variety of freshwater wetlands, primarily those surrounded by grassland or prairie. In the winter, this species may be found in freshwater wetlands as well as in brackish bays and estuaries. Ruddy Ducks primarily eat small invertebrates, including insects and crustaceans. One of many species of ducks which dive while foraging for food, Ruddy Ducks may be observed submerging themselves to feed on invertebrates in the water or on the bottom. Although Ruddy Ducks are quite agile while in the water, this species is among the least terrestrial ducks in its range, being almost entirely incapable of walking on land. Ruddy Ducks are primarily active during the day.
Ruddy ducks inhabit permanent freshwater marshes, lakes, and ponds during their breeding season. These pools contain a considerable amount of vegetation in which these ducks hide their nests. During the winter ruddy ducks prefer shallow marshes and coastal bays.
Habitat Regions: temperate ; saltwater or marine ; freshwater
Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; coastal ; brackish water
Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.
Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Migrates northward across the U.S. primarily March-April, southward late August-October. Generally resident within breeding range in Antilles and South America. Northern breeders winter south to Honduras (Hilty and Brown 1986). See Bellrose (1980) for further details on migration in North America.