Ring-Necked Duck

Aythya collaris

ring-necked_duck_pair_2-18-15.jpg

Photo of a pair of ring-necked ducks floating on water.
The pointy head and the male’s well-defined black and gray pattern are the best field characters for identifying ring-necked ducks.
Family

Anatidae (ducks, geese, swans) in the order Anseriformes

Description

The peaked head and sloping forehead help identify the ring-necked duck. The adult male is all dark, with well-defined gray sides and a white stripe between the sides and the breast. The bill is gray with a white ring and a black tip. The wing stripe is gray. The cinnamon-colored neck ring is usually not visible. The female is dark brown with light brown sides and a white eye ring. The female’s voice is a low-pitched kerrp; the male’s is a thin, low-pitched, nasal whistle.

Like other bay ducks (pochards, or diving ducks), ring-necked ducks dive underwater. Compared to dabblers, they have smaller wings for their weight, so they must work harder to take off from the water surface. To take flight, they run along the surface of the water, patting their feet on the surface. The feet are located farther back on their bodies than on dabblers, making them sit more upright when on land.

Similar species: Lesser and greater scaups have less pointy heads, and the males have gray backs (not black).

Key Identifiers

 

  • diving duck
  • "bump" on the back of the head
  • dark wings without white edges
  • bold white ring at tip of bill

Drakes:

  • black head
  • vertical white bar bordering black breast
Size

Length: 17 inches (tip of bill to tip of tail).

ring-necked_duck_male_02-18-15.jpg

Photo of a male ring-necked duck floating on water.
Ring-Necked Duck (Male)
The peaked head and sloping forehead help identify the ring-necked duck.

ring-necked_duck_female_2-18-15.jpg

Photo of a female ring-necked duck floating on water.
Ring-Necked Duck (Female)
The female ring-necked duck is dark brown with light brown sides and a white eye ring.

ring-necked_duck_male_2-18-15.jpg

Photo of a male ring-necked duck floating on water.
Ring-Necked Duck (Male)
The adult male ring-necked duck is all dark, with well-defined gray sides and a white stripe between the sides and the breast.

ring-necked_duck_male_taking_flight_2-18-15.jpg

Photo of a male ring-necked duck taking flight from water's surface.
Male Ring-Necked Duck Taking Flight
Ring-necked ducks take flight by running along the surface of the water, patting their feet on the surface.

ring-necked_duck_male_in_flight_2-18-15.jpg

Photo of a male ring-necked duck in flight.
Male Ring-Necked Duck in Flight
Ring-necked ducks are most often seen in Missouri as they migrate through our state in spring and fall.

ring-necked_duck_male_swimming_2-18-15.jpg

Photo of male ring-necked duck swimming on water as it snows.
Ring-Necked Duck (Male)
Like other bay ducks (pochards, or diving ducks), ring-necked ducks dive underwater.

ring-necked_duck_pair_flying_2-18-15.jpg

Photo of ring-necked duck pair in flight.
Ring-Necked Duck Pair in Flight
As with other migratory waterfowl, ring-necked duck numbers are tracked and game laws structured to keep populations healthy.
Habitat and conservation

Occurs in marshes, swamps, sloughs, ponds, lakes, reservoirs, and large rivers, usually diving and foraging in areas free from emergent aquatic vegetation. They seem to prefer shallow, acid marshes. Commonly observed in fall and winter in large “rafts” or groups on open water, often in mixed-species flocks of other bay or diving ducks, including lesser scaup, redheads, and canvasbacks.

Foods

Like other diving ducks, ring-necked ducks dive completely underwater to forage, but they can forage by dabbling when necessary. Foods include a great variety of aquatic vegetation and invertebrates.

image of Ring-Necked Duck distribution map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide.

Status

Common migrant. Rarely seen in northern Missouri in summer, but not known to breed in the state. Common winter resident, especially in southern Missouri. Easily seen at Mingo National Wildlife Refuge or Duck Creek Conservation Area in winter.

Life cycle

Like many other migratory ducks, ring-necked ducks are most often seen in Missouri as they fly through in spring and fall between their northern breeding grounds and their overwintering territory in western North America.

Human connections

As with other migratory waterfowl, ring-necked duck numbers are tracked, and game laws are structured to keep populations healthy. People hunt ducks for the challenge, the meat, and simply to be outdoors doing something humans have done for ages.

Ecosystem connections

Animals that migrate play important ecological roles in both breeding and overwintering territories. They also influence the ecology of every region they travel through in spring and fall.