Could a cuter bird have been selected as the feature species of the 2012 Great Salt Lake Bird Festival?! A petite diving duck with a stiff upward pointed tail. I love the rich cinnamon body color, the white cheek contrasting with the black head. And oh, that amazing shade of baby blue on that bill. (Both Ruddy Duck photos courtesy of Utah birder-photographer Paul Higgins)
Based on eBird sightings records, it appears that a strong, albeit non-native, population of Ruddy Ducks exists in Europe, especially in the UK. The Pacific Coast of South America also appears to have a possible year-round population of Ruddies. They do migrate throughout most of their North American range. My own eBird records show that I've seen Ruddy Ducks in Oregon, Arizona, Idaho, and Utah and in every month except December and February. Hmm...guess I'll have to start working on Month-Birds.
I look forward to one day discovering a nest in some dense marsh somewhere here in Utah, or at least seeing some Ruddy chicks.
The genus name is oxyura. Am I correct in the definition of oxyura and oxyurinae being "pungent urine"? If so, I wonder what the history behind that is. I also understand that being diver ducks, it is expected that their meat is foul tasting and therefore Ruddy Ducks are not on the preferred list of fowl hunters. If they only knew that plants, rather than fish or other aquatic critters, are the Ruddy's main diet, they may discover that they in fact taste good. But who'd want to eat something so cute anyway?! Apparently some people do. Here is an interesting article on the history of hunting, eating, and cooking Ruddy Duck...if you can stomach it.