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Ring-necked Duck

Common Name: Ring-necked Duck.

Scientific Name: Aythya Collaris.

What to look for?  First, but oddly, do not look for the “ring-neck” of the Ring-necked Duck. The "ring-neck" name is derived from a quite faint brownish ring around the base of the neck, but it is not visible from any distance. Look instead for the bird’s peaked head shape, white ring around the bill, and white patch just in front of the gray flanks. The male Ring-necked Duck is a sharply marked bird of gleaming black, gray, and white. Adult males have that prominent white ring on the bill. It also has a distinctive head shape—a sloping forehead and peaked rear crown. Females are rich brown with a delicate face pattern. And Ring-necked Ducks are divers so watch on Carillon Stonegate Pond!

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? Ring-necked Ducks are seasonal visitors to our ponds. They usually appear around February and will leave in early May depending upon temperatures. Look on the surface of our ponds for these birds – and watch them dive into our ponds.

How big are they? The Ring-necked Duck averages 17 inches in length. And their wingspan is approximately two feet. They weigh in at around 1 ½ pounds.

What are their flight patterns? Ring-necked Ducks are strong and fast fliers. Their flight pattern differs from that of other diving ducks during the take-off sequence. Ring-necked Ducks take flight by springing up directly up from the water. While other diving ducks require a very laborious and long take-off run. In flight, Ring-necked Ducks appear large-headed with a thin neck and a short, round body.

How else do they behave? Ring-necked Ducks are often found in small flocks. Sometimes they flock with scaup (a similar looking duck). Other times you may see them with “dabbling” ducks such as Mallards here at Carillon Stonegate Pond. Ring-necked Ducks feed by diving underwater, rather than by tipping up as “dabbling” ducks do. When diving, they leap forward in an arc to plunge underwater, and they swim using only their feet for propulsion. This differs from the Double-crested Cormorant which uses its wings. Ring-necked Ducks tend to remain in pairs during the breeding season but group into flocks of several to several thousand during migration and winter.

What’s for dinner? Vegetables! Ring-necked ducks dive in shallow water to feed on the tubers, seeds and leaves of moist-soil and aquatic plants. This is what you will see on Carillon Stonegate Pond. They also eat aquatic insects, snails and clams.

Where do they take up residence? Ring-necked Ducks are located across North America and down south as far as Mexico and northern Central America.

Where do they breed and nest? Ring-necked Ducks breed in freshwater marshes and bogs primarily across the boreal forest of northern Canada. Breeding season is late spring into summer. They place their nests among dense sedges and other emergent plants in marshes. They typically build their nests directly over the water or on floating vegetation to protect the nests from land-based predators.

Where do they migrate? Ring-necked Ducks breed in northern North America – primarily Canada, but also Minnesota - and spend winters in southern and western North America and down to northern Central America, and the Caribbean. Much of the population migrates from Canada to the southeastern U.S., staging along the way in the upper Midwest, including here in Illinois. Fall migration lasts from late September through early December; spring is early February through April.

What is their conservation status? There is low concern. According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, the Ring-necked Duck has seen slight increases in populations. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 2 million.

Do they make any interesting sounds? Ring-necked Ducks make a series of short, high, grating grunts. Females make a high peeping sound. Here is a link to the sounds of the Ring-necked Ducks.

Interesting Facts About Ring-necked Ducks:

  • While called “ring-necked”, this chestnut collar on its black neck is nearly impossible to see from a distance and is not a good field marker to use for identifying the bird.

  • Ring-necked Ducks are diving ducks that submerse in ponds and lakes to find food.

  • During fall migration, Ring-necked Ducks can form immense flocks of several hundred thousand.

  • The oldest known Ring-necked Duck was 20 years old.

For more information on Ring-necked Duck and sources of information used in this blog (these are the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit All About Birds and the Audubon Society.  And the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a wonderful source of information for anyone interested in learning more about birds.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, plants and insects. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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