US Fish & Wildlife Service


Date of this Version

January 1993


Published in Diana H. Cross and Paul Vohs (eds.) Waterfowl Management Handbook. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 1993. Online at


Redheads are one of five common diving duck species in North America. They are in the same taxonomic group as the pochards or bay ducks and are most similar in appearance and behavior to the canvasback. Smaller body size, late breeding, wintering in southern areas, and tolerance to salt in winter and in breeding areas differentiate the redhead from the canvasback and suggest an evolutionary origin in the arid areas of the West. Parasitism of other waterfowl nests is more pronounced in redheads than in other North American waterfowl. These and other aspects of the biology of the redhead are the subject of this leaflet. Readers who are interested in general references on redheads are referred to Palmer (1976) or Bellrose (1980).