Redheads are large diving ducks that feed by diving below the water’s surface looking for plant tubers and other foods. This species often occurs in large flocks, called rafts, especially during winter. This duck is known for its rounded, bright red head, two tone bill, and gray back.
Low concern. Although this species is hunted, harvest is tightly restricted as there are concerns over the potential effects of harvest on population sustainability.
Redheads breed mainly in the Prairie Pothole Region of north-central U.S. and south-central Canada. During their migration, most redheads follow the Central Flyway towards the Laguna Madre along the Gulf of Mexico coast where they can often be seen in saltwater during the winter months. They can be especially abundant on playas and reservoirs of western Oklahoma and Texas during fall migration.
Redheads aggregate in small flocks on water deep enough to produce submersed aquatic vegetation, which are an important food source during most of the year. During migration, they gather in large flocks on big bodies of water such as lakes, reservoirs, and bays, but they will also use small and shallow wetlands when available. In winter, redheads can spend considerable amounts of time in coastal marshes and off shore, returning occasionally to freshwater wetlands inland to drink. Redheads are less common in the Southeast than many other species of dabbling ducks, and few national wildlife refuges target management for this species. However, they likely benefit from freshwater emergent wetland management for other species.
Redheads primarily eat vegetative parts and tubers of submersed aquatic plants, but they will also consume seeds, mollusks, and other invertebrates. They are highly adaptable foragers and will feed by diving in deep water or dabbling at the surface in shallow water.
How you can help
You can help this species and other waterfowl by purchasing a Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp. The Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp is a nonprofit organization that supports promotion, preservation, sales, and better understanding of the Federal Duck Stamp’s conservation mission.
Subject matter Experts
- Heath Hagy, Waterfowl Ecologist, firstname.lastname@example.org
Federal Register notices
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