Dressed For The Prom
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For much of the year Ruddy Ducks are adorned rather drably. The females of this species of diving duck always sport dull brownish and white plumage and, from late spring through autumn, the males are relatively similar in appearance to the females.
A non-breeding male Ruddy Duck looks like this:
Cute, definitely, but not especially colorful.
But, what a change is wrought when breeding season approaches! Then, the males trade in their drab winter costumes for much more flamboyant plumage.
What was once dull becomes brilliant. The male’s beige winter plumage is shed in favor of rich burgundy feathers. Hence the name “Ruddy Duck.” But, even more spectacular is the transformation in the duck’s bill. It changes color from steel gray to an incredible shade of baby blue!
All of this display is designed to attract the ladies. Evidently, baby blue and burgundy are female Ruddy Ducks’ favorite colors.
The two ducks depicted in these photos are actually companions and I photographed them at the same time. Obviously, hormones work their wonders on these birds based on their internal clocks and the clock may be set differently from one bird to the next. One of these two is still in bachelor mode while the other is more than ready to go to the prom.
Photos made with a Canon 5Diii, 400 DO. The first two images were photographed at ISO 400, “M” setting, f8 @ 1/800. The third image was photographed at ISO 400, aperture preferred setting, f6.3 @ 1/2000 (exposure manually set at -2/3 stop reduction).