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Bird of the Week: Ruddy Duck

Have you ever seen a small duck with a blue bill? You might think your eyes are playing tricks on you, but this strange bird does exist and is this week’s Bird of the Week! The Ruddy Duck is an interesting waterfowl often called the “clown of the wetlands” due to its unusual behaviors. During breeding season, the male, identified by his blue bill, white cheeks, chestnut body, black crown and long upright tail feathers, courts a female by bobbing his head and hitting his bill on his body repeatedly making bubbles in the water around him. This motion, combined with his low almost burp-like sounds is quite comical to watch. The female Ruddy Duck, on the other hand, weaves a suspended platform nest among cattails and other emergent vegetation in marshes. Her brown coloration provides excellent camouflage when incubating eggs. The female often dumps eggs in a communal dummy nest which might hold up to 60 eggs from several ducks! Though these eggs will not be cared for, they provide a tasty nutrient-rich snack for local predators and may help protect active nests. Look for this unique waterfowl in the lakes and marshes in your Metroparks and across Michigan starting in April for a chance to see the Ruddy Duck and his beautiful blue bill. Click this link to see and hear this bird’s interesting behavior: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D20xiKUn5R4. Happy Birding!

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