A ring-necked duck is a small diving duck with the scientific name Aythya collaris, that is native to wooded areas around small lakes and ponds of North America. It is nearly always found near fresh water, but occasionally lives in saltwater areas in the southernmost United States. It is easily recognized by the white band across its bill, which is why it is also known as a ring-bill duck. The males have a shiny purplish-black colored head, and yellow eyes, and its body is dark grey with a white breast, while the females are duller, with brown bodies and brown eyes. Both males and females have a brown ring around their necks, but this is only noticeable at close range.
These types of ducks dive into shallow water for their food and eat mostly insects and small fish. They are also fond of grasses, coontail, and wild rice. Small invertebrates such as clams and snails may also be eaten occasionally, and they may forage for food on shore as well. Unlike other ducks, the ring-necked duck can take flight from the water. Usually silent, these ducks occasionally make a low, whistling sound.
The female ring-necked duck builds her nest without the help of the male. Nests are usually located along the shoreline or on floating plant life in the water. They are bowl shaped and shallow, usually made of downy feathers and green leaves. The female lays up to 10 eggs and sits on them for the 25 to 29 days that it takes for them to incubate. During this time, the male duck leaves the female to fend for herself.
The hatchlings are in the water, feeding themselves, within 24 hours of hatching. They are not able to fly until they are nearly two months old. The mother duck stays with them for several weeks and continues to sit on them at night to keep them warm. She will leave them only after they have begun to fly.
Like many other migrating birds, the ring-necked duck heads south for the winter. Migration may take place anytime from September to December and depends on the weather in their summer home locations. They travel in small flocks and may go as far as Mexico and northern South America. As early as February, these ducks will begin their journey north, and this spring migration may continue until March.
These types of birds are fairly common and are among the birds of least concern on conservation lists. Their future populations may be threatened, however, by the continued destruction of their habitats and nesting grounds. This is especially true since these birds often live on the waters edge, and these areas tend to be highly developed.