The Redhead belongs to the family
Anatidae, the family of ducks and duck-like birds. All
members of this family share certain characteristics
which are advantageous for living in aquatic
environments including special oiled feathers which
enable them to be waterproof, flattened bills and webbed
feet. Redhead belong to the subfamily of “Bay Divers”,
these birds feed deeper than some other ducks sometimes
diving up to 75cm for food.
Redheads like most ducks are
dichromatic which means males and females are different
in coloration. Male Redheads have a rust colored head and
neck, a black breast, gray back, black tail and
blue-gray bill. Female Redheads are almost entirely
brown with a whitish underbelly and a blue-gray bill
similar to the male.
Redheads can be found most commonly in
seasonally flooded wetlands, can also be found in
marshes, lakes, ponds and streams. Generally they spend
winters in New York and occasionally may be seen during the
summer in Western New York. Native to the hemisphere,
Redheads can be found from Alaska to Central America.
Vagrants have been seen in some European and Asian countries but
this is very rare. Redheads are omnivores who eat water
vegetation, and various invertebrates that live in the water
The Redhead is a
diving duck which means it becomes completely inverted
to feed, propelling itself under the water with its large webbed feet.
Redheads can stay underwater for over 20 seconds while
feeding. After the breeding season Redheads are very
social and can sometimes be seen in flocks of thousands;
sometimes these flocks include other diving duck species
such as Canvasbacks and Lesser Scaups. Adult Redheads
are not often victims to predation but their chicks and
eggs are. The predators who often consume their eggs or
chicks are Raccoon, Mink, Foxes and Coyotes.
are generally a monogamous species with pair bond formed
during March and April. The nests are built by the
female and are woven cup-shapes above the surface of the
water to prevent extensive predation. A female will lay
anywhere between 7-14 eggs, usually between 7-8 if in
her own nest. In North America, Redheads are the ducks
most likely to be brood parasites. Redheads will lay
some or all of their eggs in another ducks nest so
another mother will take care of their eggs and chicks.
Females incubate the eggs for 24-28 days and when the
young hatch they are able to
swim, dive, walk, and forage on their own. The
young fledge after 56-73 days.
Most likely to be seen during the
winter months in WNY on Cayuga Marsh Overlook at Iroquois National Wildlife Preserve
and on the Niagara River. May be among other diving ducks like
Ruddy Ducks and Ring-necked Ducks.