Winter Duckfest Part I — Redhead

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I’ve been doing quite a bit of duck photography lately.  It may come as a surprise to many of you but southern Arizona is a winter haven for many species of migrating ducks.  We happen to be located directly under a major bird migration flyway and migrating ducks take advantage of our man-made bodies of water to stop and refresh themselves.  I can well imagine an echelon of migrating ducks looking down at some golf course pond after having flown over a couple of hundred miles of desert and declaring to each other:  “Oasis!”  A few years back a pair of Mallards decided that our swimming pool was just such a spot.

So, for the next few weeks I’m going to feature regular posts about ducks.  I find these birds to be both beautiful and fascinating.

It seems as if all fresh-water dwelling ducks fall into two categories, dabblers and divers.  A “dabbler” is a duck that feeds on the surface.  It may immerse its head and even its upper body in the water as it forages but it never submerges completely.  A “diver,” by contrast, dives for its food.  Tonight, I’m going to feature some images of one of the most beautiful of the divers, a Redhead.  In fact, I like this duck so much that I’ll probably post some more images of it in a while.

Redheads are medium-size divers, weighing just over two pounds.  They have a nationwide distribution, living in the northern half of the United States and a large part of western Canada in the summer, and in the southern United States, Mexico, and points south in the winter.  The males of this species are gorgeous.

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Their brilliant red heads, set off by bright yellow eyes and blue-gray beaks, almost seem to glow in certain light.  Females of this species — as is the case with female ducks of nearly every species — are a drab brown in color.

These ducks are not common in the Tucson area during winter.  In fact, I’ve only seen a couple of them in one specific location, Reid Park, in central Tucson.

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In other parts of the country these beautiful ducks are known to congregate in large flocks.  Their scarcity in this area makes them all the more special as far as I’m concerned.

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Images made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400mm ISII zoom lens, aperture priority setting, ISO 400.  All images shot at f6.3, shutter speeds varied between 1/250 and 1/500.

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