This is one of my favorite ducks. It is a resident of Orange County California and in fact to North and South America. The tell-tale sign of a raft of sleeping Ruddy Ducks are the stiff tails that jut out of the water. It is only in breeding season in Spring and Summer that the male Ruddy Duck sports a blue bill. At other times, it has a dark, brown bill.
The Ruddy Duck's plumage is also changes with the seasons. While the breeding plumage of the male Ruddy Duck is chestnut brown, it fades to a nondescript brown retaining the dark black cap and white cheek. The bill becomes dark brown.
The smaller female Ruddy Duck has dark brown plumage and a whitish cheek with a streak from the bill toward the back of the head.
Ruddy Ducks eat aquatic seeds and vegetation. They also eat small fish crustaceans, and aquatic insect larvae.
While we love to see the Ruddy Duck and enjoy this native species presence, it has been introduced in Europe where it is an alien species. Its hybridization with its already threatened European cousin, the White-headed Duck, has caused concern across the pond. Ruddy Ducks are pretty much despised in Europe and they are attempting to save their own related native White-headed Duck by killing the invasive Ruddy Duck. They have much the same attitude as many here have regarding the European Starling which was introduced in the 1800s and threatens many of our native birds by its aggression.
Ruddy Duck at Mason Regional Park in Irvine, California from OC Birder Girl on Vimeo.
So when you are out in the OC, enjoy our native Ruddy Duck in its native habitat--Orange County, California.
External Links and Resources
All About Birds: Ruddy Ducks
The Birds of North America Online
This service is by subscription only, but they have some previews. Very good information.
A hunters' organization. Very much conservationists. Good article. Also see their article on Ruddy Duck courtship.
The European cousin of the Ruddy Duck that has been endangered by loss of habitat, hunting, and hunter's lead shot, pollution, habitat disturbance, and hybridization with our Ruddy Duck which was introduced in Europe.