Ruddy duck

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Ruddy duck
Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) RWD2.jpg
Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) RWD3.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Genus: Oxyura
O. jamaicensis
Binomial name
Oxyura jamaicensis
(Gmelin, 1789)
  • O. j. jamaicensis (Gmelin, 1789)
    (North American ruddy duck)
  • O. j. rubida (Wilson, 1814) (disputed)
Oxyura jamaicensis distribution.svg
Range of Oxyura jamaicensis.

Erismatura jamaicensis

Oxyura jamaicensis - MHNT

The ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) is a duck from North America and one of the stiff-tailed ducks. The genus name is derived from Ancient Greek oxus, "sharp", and oura, "tail", and jamaicensis is "from Jamaica".[2]


The Andean duck was considered a subspecies. In fact, some taxonomists, including the American Ornithological Society, still consider it conspecific. Subspecies:

  • O. j. jamaicensis (nominate subspecies) - North America including West Indies.
  • O. j. andina - central Colombia.
  • O. j. ferruginea - southern Colombia south to Chile.


Ruddy duck diving under water

These are small, compact ducks with stout, scoop-shaped bills, and long, stiff tails they often hold cocked upward. They have slightly peaked heads and fairly short, thick necks. Male ruddy ducks have blackish caps that contrast with bright white cheeks. In summer, they have rich chestnut bodies with bright blue bills. In winter, they are dull gray-brown above and paler below with dull gray bills. Females and first-year males are brownish, somewhat like winter males but with a blurry stripe across the pale cheek patch. In flight, ruddy ducks show solidly dark tops of the wings.[3]

Standard Measurements[4][5]
Length 340–430 mm (13.5–17 in)
Weight 560 g (1.23 lb)
Wingspan 470 mm (18.5 in)
Wing 133–147.5 mm (5.24–5.81 in)
Tail 67–79 mm (2.6–3.1 in)
Culmen 38.5–41 mm (1.52–1.61 in)
Tarsus 33–38 mm (1.3–1.5 in)

Breeding and habits[edit]

Their breeding habitat is marshy lakes and ponds. They nest in dense marsh vegetation near water. The female builds the nest out of grass, locating it in tall vegetation to hide it from predators. A typical brood contains 5 to 15 ducklings.[6] Pairs form each year.

They are migratory and winter in coastal bays and unfrozen lakes and ponds.

These birds dive and swim underwater. They mainly eat seeds and roots of aquatic plants, aquatic insects and crustaceans.

Invasive species[edit]

Ruddy ducks were imported into the UK in 1948 by conservationist Sir Peter Scott.[7] As a result of escapes from wildfowl collections in the late 1950s, they became established in Great Britain, from where they spread into Europe. By the year 2000, the population had increased to around 6,000 individuals. This duck's aggressive courting behavior and willingness to interbreed with the endangered native white-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala), of southern Europe, caused concern amongst Spanish conservationists. Due to this, a controversial scheme to extirpate the ruddy duck as a British breeding species started; there have also been culling attempts in other European countries.[8][9] By early 2014, the cull had reduced the British population to about 20–100, down from a peak of about 5500 in 2000.[10]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2014). "Oxyura jamaicensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2014. Retrieved 19 March 2015.
  2. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 210–211, 287. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  3. ^ Ruddy Duck Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  4. ^ Godfrey, W. Earl (1966). The Birds of Canada. Ottawa: National Museum of Canada. p. 81.
  5. ^ Sibley, David Allen (2000). The Sibley Guide to Birds. New York: Knopf. p. 103. ISBN 0-679-45122-6.
  6. ^ "Ruddy Duck Fact Sheet". Lincoln Park Zoo.
  7. ^ Ruddy Ducks and White-Headed Ducks - The RSPB
  8. ^ "R.I.P. Ruddy duck". BBC News. 3 March 2003. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  9. ^ Vidal, John (8 March 2012). "Final 100 ruddy ducks in the UK facing extermination". Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  10. ^ Langley, William (8 February 2014). "The ruddy ducks with nowhere left to hide". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 31 March 2014.

External links[edit]