Winter brings migratory birds to My Florida Backyard from up north. About a month ago, the Yellow-Rumped Warblers appeared at the feeders again, and more recently, Ring-Necked Ducks made their appearance on the lake once more.
Ring-Necked Ducks (Aythya collaris) are diving ducks - they submerge their entire bodies when diving below the surface for food. Our year-round mallards and muscovies are part of the group known as dabbling ducks, who generally feed at or just below the surface.
As with most birds, the males have the more striking black and white markings, while the females are more drab and brown. The name "Ring-Necked" may seem misleading, as the ring around the beak seems much more obvious. However, the species does have what is described as a chestnut-colored ring around the neck which is visible at very close range. Early scholars identifying the bird would have worked with preserved specimens that could be examined closely, and the neck ring would have been easier to see.
The Ring-Necked Duck is a fast flier, and undertakes longer migrations than many other ducks. It spends summers in the far northern U.S. and Canada, where it breeds. It winters mainly in the Southern U.S. and Mexico, but has been observed as far south as Costa Rica. Fascinatingly, a very tiny but regular migratory population is regularly observed in Western Europe.
The Ring-Necked Duck gathers in fairly small flocks on freshwater lakes and ponds, and we're so glad the lake in My Florida Backyard is one of those. When we see these visitors return, we know the cooler season is here, and we welcome them both!