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North Carolina Wildlife Species Information

Ruddy Duck - Oxyura jamaicensis

Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis

Identification Tips:

  • Length: 11 inches Wingspan: 23 inches
  • Small, chunky diving duck
  • Long stiff-tail is often held vertically
  • Dark wings
  • Immature similar to adult female

Adult male alternate:

  • Alternate plumage worn in Spring and Summer
  • Brilliant blue bill
  • Black crown and nape
  • Rust-red lower neck, breast, back and body
  • White face
  • Black tail

Adult male basic (eclipse):

  • Eclipse plumage worn Fall-Winter
  • Dark gray bill
  • Dark cap
  • Face white, as in alternate plumage
  • Gray brown neck and body plumage

Adult female:

  • Like winter male, but with dusky horizontal stripe crossing pale gray cheek patch

Similar species:

Most other diving ducks do not have the long, stiff tail of the Ruddy Duck. Hooded Mergansers can sometimes hold their tails erect like Ruddy Ducks, but have crests and long thin bills. The rare Masked Duck of South Florida and South Texas has a similar shape but adult male in alternate plumage has dark face, and the female, and immature and eclipse-plumaged males have a buff head with a dark cap, dark eyeline and dark line below eye.

Length and wingspan from: Robbins, C.S., Bruun, B., Zim, H.S., (1966). Birds of North America. New York: Western Publishing Company, Inc.

Above information used courtesy of United States Geological Survey.

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