Mr. And Ms. Ruddy
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Freshwater ducks are classified into two broad categories: diving ducks and dabblers. Diving ducks, as their name implies, dive for their food. Dabblers submerge their beaks, heads, and sometimes,their upper bodies while hunting for food, but do not dive.
Today, I’m featuring a pair of well-known divers, a male and female Ruddy Duck. Ruddy Ducks are among the smallest duck species. One sees them often over at Sweetwater Wetlands pretty much year round. There seem to be more of them in winter than in summer so, perhaps, some migrants join the local crew.
They are extremely attractive little ducks. The males, like the one shown above, are distinguished by the white panels on the sides of their faces. During breeding season the plumage on their bodies turns a dark rufous color. Hence, the name “Ruddy Duck.” Even more interesting, the males’ bills turn a brilliant sky blue color during breeding season. This male is in non-breeding plumage.
The females are relatively drab in color, but their compact and highly attractive form makes up for that.
Ruddy Ducks are among the least sensitive of duck species to the presence of humans. It’s possible to observe these little ducks at fairly close range and they will linger on a pond long after other species have flown. In fact, I’ve almost never seen one of these ducks fly off at my approach. If nervous about my presence it will simply dive and resurface 15 yards away.
These ducks — or at least the males — are famous for their antic behavior. Male Ruddy Ducks often put on a display in which they vibrate their lower bodies in order to create large splashes of water. They do this often during breeding season and I guess the girls think it’s sexy. But, every once in a while, a male will do it during non-breeding season either for practice or for the sheer hell of it.
Photos taken with a Canon 5Diii, 400 DO, ISO 400, aperture preferred setting. All photos taken at f6.3. The first and third photos were made at 1/1000, the second at 1/800.