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The Life of the Ring-necked Duck

Updated on March 16, 2015
Ring-necked Duck
Ring-necked Duck | Source

This duck is quite often confused with the scaups, but not to fear. It is related, and though not gregarious, it tends to socialize with them. If you’ve seen a scaup, chances are quite good that the Ring-necked Ducks have also been along for the ride. Not only that, if this duck has located a favorite feeding spot, it returns time after time, bypassing seemingly similar ponds in the same vicinity. This is a diving duck that will feed in deeper water. When it dives and feeds under water, it keeps its wings tight against the body and propels itself with only its feet. They also swim lightly with the head up.

Field Marks

The name is misleading, for the narrow rusty band around the neck is hard to see, unless the light is very good and it is at close range. Much better field marks are the two white rings around the bill—one right at the tip of the bill and the other separating the bill from the head—are much more reliable. The rest of the bill is blue, just like the scaups.


The Ring-necked Duck is common with a widespread range. It winters on the southern coastal areas, but it prefers freshwater wooded lakes, swamps and ponds. This is why, many times, it will be found wintering in the interior of most of the southeastern states. Its breeding range is centered around the Canadian prairie provinces and the prairie states of the U.S. In lesser numbers, though, it will be found in every Canadian provinces and the entire United States.

Breeding and Nesting Habits

These ducks generally migrate in small, mixed flocks and pairing will be done on the breeding grounds. The female interests the male by whistling a soft call, to which he will raise his head in a kinked neck position and raise the feathers of his short crest. He, in turn, will answer with his whistle. He will bend his neck and head backward until his head rests on his back. Then he’ll snap it into a perpendicular motion, causing the bill to travel in an arc of 180 degrees.

The male stays with his mate until the nest is built and all eggs are laid. Incubation separates them, and he will seek out male friends to spend time with during this period. The female builds her nest in a marsh among vegetation that grows about a foot out of the water. She’ll use cattails or reeds for the nest, which is built up from the bottom of the pond until it is about eight inches above water level. Many times the eggs will be wet due to water seepage.

Eggs and the Young Ones

An average clutch is about 10-12 eggs, with an incubation period of approximately 25 days. The eggs can vary from buff to creamy green. Since they hatch over water, the ducklings are swimming in a matter of hours after hatching. They take full advantage of their habitat, which is also the home of numerous insects and their larvae, so they have a high protein menu, for they will eat anything that moves.


In six or seven weeks, the ducklings have fledged and are capable of flight. The adult male grows out of his eclipse plumage at about the same time that the young are learning to fly. This is when the female becomes flightless. By September, the entire family is once again aflight. The ring-necked is an excellent flier, and it must run across the water’s surface in order to become airborne.


The northward trek is begun in mid-March. It arrives on the breeding pond at about the time that the ice has melted. They are southbound again in September, and are on the wintering grounds in November.


The ratio is about 80 percent vegetable and 20 percent animal matter. They like snails, small frogs, crayfish, dragonflies, beetles, worms, mollusks, minnows, and crustaceans.


The crow is the most destructive predator, as they flock to the area in the spring to feed on the eggs. Raccoons will still destroy some of the nests, but most mammals are discouraged by the nest being over water. Otter and mink will feed on ducklings and any adults that they can capture. Eagles, owls, and hawks will catch both adult and young. Disease, accidents, and parasites lay their claim, too. Plows and other farming equipment in the prairie states and provinces will destroy natural habitat and nesting grounds, which can reduce their population.


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    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thank you, Roswitha. I appreciate your comment.

    • profile image

      Roswitha 3 years ago

      I'm not often moved by informational cnetnot, but yours really made me think about your viewpoints. You have offered valuable and sound thoughts that are logical and interesting. Thank you for sharing your fine work.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Glad that you found items of interest here. Take a look at:

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      Gdgd 3 years ago

      This semester, I had one final. So my sidnytug consisted of the hour and a half before the final oops. Next semester will be a lot harder. I will be using this next time.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Lsila, there is so much that eats up Ram and CPU. I am right there with you.

    • profile image

      Leila 3 years ago

      As an end user, I don't really care weethhr an application uses GStreamer directly, or GStreamer-via-Phonon, or Xine-via-Phonon or whatever, as long as sound comes out of my speakers when I press play.As an end user I do care weethhr an application uses Gstreamer directly, or GStreamer-via-Phonon, or Xine-via-Phonon, because I'm tired of useless abstraction layers that eat up more RAM and CPU cycles just for the sake of platform agnosticism and other shit which are just there for "being nice to other devs" and that no end user cares about. Hopefully, soon enough Haiku will be there to save us from all this mess.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Connie. These are great little birds, too. The divers are all pretty amazing.

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      I did not know anything about this ring-necked duck, so thank you for enlightening me. Boy, it's amazing what males will do to impress females, isn't it? Makes my neck hurt just to think about what this guy goes through to find a mate! Very interesting and voted Up. Good stuff as always, Deb.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      In a way, Beckie. BUT, they are guided by nature, whereas we are guided by emotion.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 5 years ago from Upstate, New York

      I am often reminded of our similar these ducks traits are to humans. Whenever I read some of your hubs, the many species of duck you write about care for their young and interact similar to a human family.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      It sure is, Martin, but all animals have them. That's why humans scare these little guys so much. In the food chain, the largest always eats the smaller ones.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      I love these ducks, Billy, they are wonderful! Thanks for visiting. Hope you had a wonderful turkey day.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, and no, Kaili. Many times they just stay in the middle of the body of water that they are using.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 5 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. When one gets to the "enemies", it is amazing this animal is still alive.

    • Kaili Bisson profile image

      Kaili Bisson 5 years ago from Canada

      What a lovely little duck. That flightless period must be dangerous for them.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Interesting as always, Deb! I always learn something new from you.

    • Kaili Bisson profile image

      Kaili Bisson 5 years ago from Canada

      Hi Deb, what a wonderful little duck. That flightless period must be a dangerous time for them.


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