South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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Aythya americana

Length: 19 inches Wingspan: 32 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Rufuous-Brown head, black breast, gray back.  Compare to white back of Canvasback.

Redhead - Aythya americanaA relatively common diving duck which also dabbles in shallow water.  The Redhead regularly lay eggs in the nests of other birds, sometimes including non-duck species such as bitterns and herons.  Some female Redheads never raise their own young, only parasitizing other species' nests.

Habitat: Marshes and sloughs, shallow ponds and lakes.

Diet: Primarily the leaves, roots, and seeds of aquatic plants.  Also will occasionally feed on aquatic insects and crustaceans. 

Behavior: Forages by both diving for food and dabbling in shallow water.  Gregarious, with many often nesting in close proximity, which no doubt contributes to nest parasitism with the species.  Will also gather in very large flocks during migration and in winter.

Nesting: May through July

Breeding Map: Breeding Bird Survey map

Song: Generally silent, although males have various vocalizations during courtship.

Migration: Summers in the northern plains, western U.S., central Canada, and locally elsewhere.  Winters in the southern half of the U.S. and points south.

Similar Species: Canvasback Female very similar to female Ring-necked Duck.

Conservation Status: Numbers are far below historical levels, and may still be in decline in some areas.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Redhead

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Redhead"

Photo Information: April 5th, 2008 - Dewey Gevik Nature Area, Minnehaha County - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Redhead photos.


Click on the range map for a higher-resolution view
Redhead - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common summer resident in the eastern part of the state, less common in the west.  Rare in winter.