Redheads, Aythya americana
Redheads inhabit freshwater lakes, ponds, marshes, and shallow wetlands. They prefer areas with submerged aquatic vegetation, where they can dive for their food. Redheads breed in the prairie pothole region of North America, including parts of the United States and Canada. During winter, they migrate to coastal areas, estuaries, and large inland lakes, primarily in the southern United States and Mexico.
Redheads are named for their vibrant red heads, which contrast with their gray body and pale belly. Juveniles and females have a paler, more mottled appearance.
Redheads are diving ducks and skilled swimmers. They dive underwater to forage for food, primarily feeding on plant material such as aquatic vegetation, seeds, and tubers. They also consume small aquatic invertebrates, crustaceans, mollusks, and occasionally small fish. Redheads are known for their ability to filter food from the water using specialized lamellae in their bills. Redheads often feed in large groups, known as rafts, especially during the non-breeding season. They dive in unison and may cooperate to locate food sources.
Redheads form breeding pairs during the spring season. Male Redheads perform courtship displays that include head-throwing, neck-stretching, and calling. They also engage in aggressive displays to establish dominance and defend their territory.
They construct their nests on the ground, often in grassy areas near water bodies or on islands. The nest is a shallow depression lined with plant material, such as grasses, sedges, and down feathers. The female builds the nest and lines it with her own down feathers.
The female Redhead typically lays a clutch of 8 to 10 creamy white or pale olive-green eggs. Incubation is performed primarily by the female and lasts for about 23 to 26 days. After hatching, the female leads the ducklings to water, where they learn to swim, dive, and find food. The young Redheads are precocial and able to feed themselves shortly after hatching.
Both the male and female Redheads provide care for the ducklings. They guide and protect them, teaching them how to forage for food and avoid predators. The diet of the young Redheads consists of aquatic invertebrates, small insects, and plant matter. The parents may also provide partially digested food or guide them to suitable foraging areas.
Redhead ducklings fledge, or acquire their flight feathers, at around 45 to 50 days after hatching. Once they fledge, they become capable of sustained flight.
During winter, Redheads undertake seasonal migrations to seek warmer areas with abundant food. They form large flocks and migrate to coastal areas, estuaries, and inland lakes, often joining mixed-species flocks of other waterfowl.