Aythya americana
Range Map

The Redhead is a diving duck, related to the Canvasback, the Ring-Necked Duck and the Greater and Lesser Scaup. Some people call this group pochards. Most Redheads are summer breeders in Canada’s prairie provinces and south into the northern midwestern USA, but some Redheads breed as far north as Alaska. Some of their population are year-round residents in California’s Central Valley, Southern British Columbia and eastern Washington state, parts of the northern Great Basin, in Wyoming, in the Texas panhandle, and even in southern Mexico. During winter, most of these ducks go south to the lower latitudes of the USA and south as far as Yucatan in Mexico.

More than most other ducks, Redheads will lay their eggs in other nests, usually other ducks. Science calls this practice brood parasitism, a well known and despised practice of cowbirds and Eurasian cuckoos. While other ducks are the usual victims of this practice, other bird species have been the recipients of these “gifts”.

I found proof of Redheads breeding in San Diego County when I photographed a hen with a brood of young behind her at Whelan Lake in Oceanside (California). The San Diego Natural History Museum used some of the images I gathered at Whelan Lake in the publishing of their book, The San Diego County Bird Atlas.

Modern science considers the Redhead as monotypic (i.e. there are no subspecies).

During my visits to Texas, I found Redheads in many of the bays and lagoons along the Gulf coast, but I didn’t seem to find them as bold as the birds I met near my home in southern California.

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