Common Name
REDHEAD

Scientific Name
AYTHYA AMERICANA

View Utah Distribution Map

Photo by Kay Boulter
Photo Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

The redhead, Aythya americana, breeds in Alaska, western Canada, and the western and north-central United States, and winters south to Guatemala and the West Indies. In Utah, this duck is common in summer, especially in the marshes near the Great Salt Lake; it is also common as a migrant and during winter throughout the state. Its habitat in summer is freshwater marshes; in winter, it utilizes lakes, ocean bays, and estuaries. Its foods are aquatic vegetation and aquatic invertebrates, such as insects, crustaceans, and snails.

The nest is on the ground, sometimes in a depression. There are usually 9 to 15 eggs; however, clutch size of an individual female is difficult to determine because females commonly lay eggs in the nests of other females. The eggs are incubated by the female parent alone for 24 to 28 days. The precocial young, tended by the female parent alone, are able to fly after 56 to 73 days.

Females variously 1) incubate their own clutches, 2) incubate their own clutches and dump some eggs in the nests of other redheads or other ducks, or 3) are entirely parasitic, laying all of their eggs in the nests of other ducks without even constructing nests of their own. Parasitism is most successful when the victims are other redheads, but other species of ducks, especially the canvasback, are commonly parasitized by the redhead.

Sources:

  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birderís handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.

  • Baicich, P. J., and C. J. O. Harrison. 1997. A guide to the nests, eggs, and nestlings of North American birds. 2nd ed. Academic, San Diego. 347 pp.

  • Peterson, R. T., and V. M. Peterson. 1990. A field guide to western birds, 3rd ed. Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 432 pp.

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