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Redhead Pochard

[ Canvasback ] [ Common Goldeneye ] [ Burrow's Goldeneye ]
[ Bufflehead ] [ Ferruginous ]   [ Smew ]
[ Greater Scaup ] [ Lesser Scaup ] [ Hooded Merganser ]
[ Rosy Billed Pochard ] [ Redhead Pochard ] [ Red Crested Pochard ]
[ Tufted ]



Early in its history the Redhead suffered from identity crises. Ornithologists (even the well-known Audubon and Wilson) identified it as being identical to the Common Pochard – a European duck. It wasn’t until later that it was recognized as being a distinct North American species.
The identity crisis of Redheads is carried over into the present day. Male Redheads can be confused with Canvasbacks as they both sport a distinctive chestnut/red head. However, on closer inspection you can see that instead of the elegantly sloping forehead and long beak of the Canvasback, Redheads have an abrupt forehead and a short broad blue bill with a dark tip.

Drake Redheads have a reddish head and upper neck. Their lower neck, fore back and breast is black while the back is a dark grayish color. They have a broad band of light grey extending across their wing and on to the primaries.

Females have a duller, reddish brown head, neck and breast. Their bill is a duller blue than the males. Their chin and throat are a buff white. They also have a very faint eye ring and stripe behind the eye. Flanks are breast are brown. Female Redheads can be mistaken for Ring-necks at a distance. 



Redheads are considered ‘over-water nesters’. That is, their nests are found on mats of vegetation in shallow water.  Again, there are exceptions to this rule and the occasional nest is found in the uplands.  Their bulky nests of reeds/cattail blades padded with breast down contain an average of 10-15 eggs. Hens lay one egg a day until the clutch is complete.  Only hens incubate the eggs.  After the last egg is laid it is 25 days until the eggs start to hatch.

In captivity the drakes will pair successfully with more than one hen.


General Comments

Romance for the Redhead begins late in the winter with several males competing for one or two females. Male Redheads go through complex display behaviors to prove to the females how attractive they are. For instance, in one gymnastic like display, the male throws back his head until his crown nearly touches his tail feathers. Along with physical displays, the males can also be heard making a ‘meowing sound’ to attract females.

The Redhead has the habit of passing off the duty of parental care to others by laying eggs in other Redhead nests, and even in other duck nests such as the Canvasback.  Thus, leaving the care and raising of their young to others. This behavior (parasitism) tends to occur more often when breeding conditions are poor (e.g. a drought year).


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Redhead Drake

Redhead Hen

Redhead Pair

How to Order