7 Ducks With Red Heads (With Pictures & ID Guide)

Duck with red head flying

Ducks with red heads are a wonder in the bird world. Their striking crimson-pigmented crowns make them stand out in ponds, marshes, rivers, and lakes.

Interestingly, not just one — the Redhead duck — but several species flaunt this iconic hue on their heads. Each of them possesses unique traits, behaviors, and habitats that set them apart from each other.

In this article, you’ll meet seven red-headed ducks inhabiting North America, Asia, and Europe. You’ll also get a picture and an identification guide for each species so you can easily spot them in the wild. Let’s start!

7 Ducks With Red Heads

1. Redhead

Redhead duck
Origin:North America
Length:16.5–22 in
Weight:24–48 oz 
Wingspan:30–33 in
Temperament:Sociable, docile
Lifespan:5–22 years

Among the numerous breeds of red-headed ducks, one stands out as the most popular: the Redhead duck.

Only the male members of this species, also called drakes, exhibit such an eye-catching crown, though. These ducks also belong to the list of birds with red heads.

Beyond their head coloring, these ducks possess other striking features. Their gray bodies contrast with black tails and breasts, while yellow eyes give them a unique gaze. They flaunt bluish-gray bills as well.

Native to North America, these fowls journey to the southern United States during migration. While on the move, they usually travel in sizable groups, which showcases their sociable nature.

On the reproductive front, a typical breeding season sees them laying between 7 and 10 eggs. They nest in marshes with tall grasses surrounded by water channels where they can find food easily.

Watch this video to see what Redhead ducks look like in action:

Redhead Ducks Diving In Lake

2. Canvasback

Canvasback with red head
Origin:North America
Length:18.9–22 in (48–56 cm)
Weight:30.4–56 oz (862–1588 g)
Wingspan:31–35 in (78–89 cm)
Temperament:Quiet, social
Lifespan:10–19 years

The Canvasback is another species gracing our list of red-headed ducks. However, remember that while males boast radiant crimson heads, the females present more muted, pale brown ones.

Still, expect that both genders share some distinguishing physical traits that set them apart from other duck breeds, including their sloping foreheads, elongated necks, and notably pointy beaks.

In my travels across the Midwest, I found Canvasback ducks to be a rare subject of my bird-watching expeditions. Originating from North America, they aren’t frequently spotted due to their dwindling population numbers.

Yet, I was lucky enough to spot one on a recent trip to Minnesota. The duck’s fiery red-tinted head was unmistakable, even from across the lake.

In terms of behavior, these ducks lean towards being quiet yet social. They tend to spend time together in small mixed flocks of about 10 to 15 birds at most.

3. Cinnamon Teal

Cinnamon Teal with red head
Origin:North and South America
Length:14–16 in (35–41 cm)
Weight:12–15 oz (340–425 g)
Wingspan:21.3-22.4 in (54-57 cm)
Temperament:Calm, rarely aggressive
Lifespan:5–10 years

With its striking red-pigmented head extending across its body, the male Cinnamon Teal duck is easily distinguishable. Females, on the other hand, sport an overall brown coloration.

Looking closer, these ducks flaunt red eyes and long beaks. Moreover, as teals, the bluish-green speculums on their wings catch the light beautifully, and their backs display intricate patterns.

Beyond looks, however, Cinnamon Teals are also known for their extensive migratory habits.

They cover multiple regions, from Western Canada to the western parts of the United States, all the way to several South American countries like Brazil, Chile, and even the Falkland Islands.

As dabbling ducks, their diet mainly consists of foods that can be found in shallow water: seeds and a range of aquatic vegetation, such as grasses, algae, duckweeds, and pondweeds.

4. Common Pochard

Common Pochard with red head
Origin:Europe, Northern Asia
Length:18–20 in (45–51 cm)
Weight:16.5–44 oz (468–1247 g)
Wingspan:28.3–32.3 in (71–82 cm)
Temperament:Friendly, quiet
Lifespan:8–10 years

Generally, the male Common Pochard duck often finds itself under the misidentification umbrella. They get confused with Canvasback and Redhead drakes because of their similar red-colored head feathers.

However, note that Common Pochards maintain round bodies, short necks, and two-toned bills — all of which are characteristics that set them apart from either species.

Further, their temperament matches their appearance; they are friendly and calm. It is not uncommon to spot these birds in the company of other diving ducks due to their social nature.

When it comes to reproduction, monogamy dominates their breeding habits. Pairs remain together for a season, with nests strategically built on the ground near freshwater lakes, shores, or ponds.

While they have the potential to live up to ten years, Common Pochard ducks face several challenges. Threats range from habitat destruction and pollution to hunting pressures and climate change.

5. Smew

Smew with red head
Origin:Northern Europe
Length:14.2–17.3 in (36–44 cm)
Weight:17.6–28.2 oz (500–800 g)
Wingspan:22–27.2 in (56–69 cm)
Temperament:Shy, flighty
Lifespan:1–8 years

The Smew duck offers an intriguing variation from the typical red-headed ducks we’ve discussed so far. In an unusual twist, the hens of this breed are the ones that have vibrant reddish crowns.

This feature, combined with their spikey crests and serrated bills, makes them unmistakable up close. From a distance, though, they can sometimes be mistaken for the Ruddy duck.

Temperament-wise, Smew hens and drakes are regarded for their shy yet flighty nature. This is further underscored by the fact that they stand alone as the only living member of the genus Mergellus.

Geographically, these ducks are quite widespread, with their breeding territories spanning from northern Europe to the Pacific coastlines of Siberia.

Yet, even if they are adept at navigating their environment, these birds are not without threats. Various predators, including American minks, falcons, hornbills, and toucans, have been known to target them.

6. Ferruginous

Ferruginous with red head
Origin:Europe, Asia
Length:14.9–16.5 in (38–42 cm)
Weight:15.9–24.7 oz (450–700 g)
Wingspan:24.8–26.4 in (63–67 cm)
Lifespan:10–12 years

A Ferruginous duck is notable for its distinguishing feature: both the male and the female duck exhibit crimson-colored domes. Yet, this red hue is much more vivid in drakes, which gives them a more head-turning look.

Alongside this striking coloration, several other features highlight their beauty. These ducks carry an undeniable elegance with their white undertail coverts, yellowish eyes, and subtle gray-tinted beaks.

Naturally inhabiting Eurasia, their behavior tilts towards caution, often wary of their surroundings. This behavior may be a response to the many dangers they encounter daily.

Also, their population status, sadly, is concerning. These birds are listed as “Near Threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

With regard to reproduction, May marks the onset of their breeding season. Female Ferruginous ducks lay 7 to 10 buff-pigmented eggs in large nests built near water sources such as lakes, ponds, or rivers.

7. Common Merganser

Common Merganser with red head
Origin:North America, Europe, Asia
Length:22–28 in (55–71 cm)
Weight:33–60 oz (935–1701 g)
Wingspan:30.5–38 in (77–97 cm)
Temperament:Highly social
Lifespan:11–14 years

The Common Merganser doesn’t follow the same pattern as other ducks when it comes to head coloration. To be specific, males boast a striking green head, while females proudly wear a deep reddish-brown one.

Hence, males of these species also belong to the category of ducks with green heads. Other identifying features of these ducks include their pointed wings, distinctive shaggy crests, and noticeably flat bills.

Spanning regions from North America to Europe and Asia, Common Merganser ducks have made their presence felt. Their social tendencies are immediately evident; they thrive in the company of their kind.

When it’s time for breeding, which happens once a year between May and June, these fowls have unusual nesting preferences.

Instead of building traditional nests, pairs gravitate towards abandoned woodpecker holes, which they then use to create a safe shelter for their eggs.

Hopefully, this comprehensive guide has helped you to understand more about ducks with red heads. If you have any questions or thoughts to add, we’d be happy to address them in the comments below!

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