Ring-necked Duck

Hey guys, welcome back. Today we look at the ring-necked duck. The ring-necked duck is a an elegant black and gray duck. They are about the size of a scaup, just slightly smaller than a mallard. They look similar to scaup as well, but have a black back. The shape of the black back, and the white wedge at their shoulder make them easy to ID, even from a distance. Their head also has a peaked appearance. The male’s head looks black in most light, but can show some dark purple iridescence. The female is mostly brown, and has a small white eye ring and white at the base of their bill.

Male and female ring-necked ducks. Look closely and you can see the chestnut collar on the male, Veteran’s Park, Mentor, OH

Of course, one of the most identifiable features of the the ring-necked duck is the bright white ring on its…. bill. Yes, to non birders, and even some experienced ones, the name seems to be a misnomer. A duck with a distinctly marked, ringed bill isn’t named after that feature. Well, as I’ve mentioned before, many birds were first described using dead specimens. When you have a specimen in front of you and can investigate it thoroughly, you can notice things that in the wild may not be very noticeable at all. Such is the case with the ring-necked duck. The ring-necked duck does actually have a ringed neck. It has a collar of chestnut brown that is essentially invisible except in good light. The biologists in the 1800s that first described it thought this brown collar really jumped out, and so gave it the name.

Female ring-necked duck, Veteran’s Park, Mentor, OH

Ring-necked ducks are found throughout the US mostly during the winter, or during migration. Although they do breed in parts of the northern US, the majority of their breeding range is in Canada. They are diving ducks, but are quite at home on smaller, shallow ponds unlike some of their diving cousins. They are a pretty common duck and can be seen in huge numbers. Flocks sometimes exceeding hundreds of thousands of individuals (yes, you read that figure correctly) have been known to show up on some lakes in Minnesota. I’ve never seen that many at once. Here in Ohio its not uncommon to see 50 or more. When I lived in NYC, every winter would produce 2 or 3 in Central Park. So, I guess if you’re ever in the land of 1,000 lakes, check some of them for ring-necked ducks! Sticking with waterfowl, next time we’ll look at our second swan species. See you then!

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