Friday, May 13, 2011

Ring-necked Ducks: Mid April Spring Migration through Northern Illinois

A pair of Ring-necked Ducks, Horicon Marsh National wildlife Refuge, Wisconsin; 4/24/2011
Ring-necked Ducks are another diving duck that migrates through northern Illinois from its winter home in the southern half of the U.S. to its summer homes in Canada, Alaska, Northern Midwest and Northwest states as well as the cooler climates of the Rockies. These ducks like the shallow freshwater ponds and nest in marshy areas near woods. The Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin is such a place, and is where I saw this pair (Above) swimming about. In the photo above you can see the faint rings around its neck that gives them their names. In low light or at a far distance, it is difficult to see these rings.

Another pair of Ring-necked Ducks in their winter home, Phoenix, AZ; 12/26/09.
From a distance, male Ring-necked Ducks look much like male Scaups (see my 4/22 post about Scaups at ) and are similar in size (17" long). But as you see them at close range, you can see their backs are black (Scaups' backs are lighter) and their grayish bills have a white outline and a larger black tip than Scaups, which have a bluish bill with less white and a tiny black tip. Another good identifying characteristic of the Ring-Necks is between its black breast and gray flanks is a small white "spur" (Above). The crown of a Ring-Neck also looks like it has a bit of a "hairdo", whereas, the Scaups are smoother. females are brownish all over, with a dark gray cap and a white eye-ring, and have less of a white outline on their bills.

Another pair of Ring-necked Ducks,
Seney Wildlife Refuge in Upper Michigan; 5/27/2007.

Ring-necked Ducks travel through Northern Illinois usually around mid April. If you miss them while they are travelling through our area, you can probably catch them up around the Horicon Marsh National Wildlife refuge, only a couple of hours north of Rockford. Or if you want to travel even further north you most assuredly can see them in the Seney National Wildlife Refuge in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which is the first time I remember seeing Ringed-necks (Above).

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