Redhead (bird)

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This article is about the duck species. For other uses, see Redhead (disambiguation).
Redhead duck (Aythya americana, male).jpg
Redhead duck (Aythya americana) female and offspring.jpg
female with young
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Subfamily: Aythyinae
Genus: Aythya
Species: A. americana
Binomial name
Aythya americana
(Eyton, 1838)

The redhead (Aythya americana) is a medium-sized diving duck, 37 cm (15 in) long with an 84 cm (33 in) wingspan.

The adult drake has a blue bill, a red head and neck, a black breast, and yellow eyes. The adult hen has a brown head and body and a darker bluish bill with a black tip. The drake's distinctive call, a mewing weee-ooooo, is given during courtship.

The breeding habitat is marshes and prairie potholes in western North America. Loss of nesting habitat has led to sharply declining populations. Hens regularly lay eggs in the nests of other redheads or other ducks, especially canvasbacks. Redheads usually take new mates each year, starting to pair in late winter.

Following the breeding season, drakes go through a molt which leaves them flightless for almost a month. Before this happens, they leave their mates and move to large bodies of water, usually flying farther north.

They overwinter in the southern and northeastern United States, the Great Lakes region, northern Mexico and the Caribbean.

This strong migrant is a very rare vagrant to western Europe.

Feeding habits[edit]

These birds feed mainly by diving or dabbling. They mainly eat aquatic plants (74%) with some molluscs (21%).[2] Gastropods include 18% of food and bivalves include 3% of its food.[2]

Gastropods known as food of Aythya americana include:[2] Acteocina canaliculata, Acteon punctostriatus, Anachis avara, Anachis obesa, Caecum nitidum, Calliostoma sp., Cerithidea pliculosa, Cerithium lutosum, Crepidula convexa, Diastoma varium, Melanella sp., Mitrella lunata, Nassarius acutus, Nassarius vibex, Natica sp., Neritina virginea, Odostomia trifida, Olivella minuta, Olivella watermani, Polinices sp., Pyramidellidae, Pyrgocythara plicosa, Rissoina catesbyana, Sayella livida, Turbonilla sp., Turbonilla interrupta and Vitrinella sp.[2]



  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Aythya americana". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d Michot T. C., Woodin M. C. & Nault A. J. (2008). "Food habits of redheads (Aythya americana) wintering in seagrass beds of coastal Louisiana and Texas, USA". Acta Zoologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 54 Suppl. 1): 239-250. PDF

External links[edit]