Redhead

Aythya americana
Redhead specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

Ironically, the Redhead is not the only duck in North America with a red head. In many parts of its range, this species occurs side by side with another redheaded duck, the Canvasback (Aythya valisineria), and a couple field marks must be noted in order to distinguish the two. The Redhead is slightly smaller (19-20 inches), has a shorter bill, and is darker on the back and flanks. Males have a red head and grey body, while females are mostly dark brown. The Redhead breeds primarily in the northern Great Plains, with smaller breeding populations in the southern Plains, the Rockies, and Alaska. Although some western areas see Redheads all year, most Redhead populations migrate south to the southern two-thirds of the United States and into Mexico in winter. Despite this vast winter range, much higher concentrations of wintering Redheads may be found along the coast than in the interior. Redheads breed in freshwater wetlands. In winter, this species primarily inhabits coastal areas with plentiful seagrasses. Redheads predominantly eat aquatic plants in summer; in winter, their diet includes seagrasses and mollusks. One of several species of “diving ducks” in North America, Redheads may be observed submerging themselves to feed on submerged plant matter. In winter, they may also be observed in large flocks on coastal bays and lagoons. This species is primarily active during the day.

DC Information

A common migrant and wintering species, found in large flocks in bays and salt-marsh ponds, usually from October to May. Sexes are different.

Specimen Information

The duck on the left, on the water, is a female.
Date: No date in the  record
Collected By: Wm Palmer
Locality: Potomac River, near DC
Sex: Female
Catalog ID: 295972
 
The duck on the right, standing on land, is a male.
Date: 4/8/1883
Collected By: Frank Ford
Locality: Washington, DC
Sex: Male
Catalog ID: 90014

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC11496 Aythya americana (Redhead)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC11497 Aythya americana (Redhead)

Images