Ruddy Duck

The Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis, is a North American duck which was imported into the UK in 1948 and became established there. Escapees then spread to Europe where it was considered ‘undesirable’ due to its tendency to interbreed with the endangered White-headed Duck, Oxyura leucocephala, and controversial culls were carried out in several countries, including the UK. Culling in the UK reduced the population from a high of over 5,000 to less than 100 individuals.

male Ruddy Duck

The Ruddy Duck is a frequent visitor to the area around the mouth of the rio Guadalhorce in Málaga, which is where these photos were taken. The wetland area around the mouth of the river attracts a lot of interesting wildlife and several ‘hides’ have been set up. The male has a distinctive blue bill and in summer has a rich chestnut-brown body. It is much duller in winter, similar to females and juveniles. It almost looks like it is a duck which has stuck its snout into a false bill and now, unable to get it off, has to live with it.

The female of the species has the chestnut-brown body in summer but no white cheeks and no blue bill. It does, however, have a nice blue tail. They mainly eat seeds, aquatic plants, insects and crustaceans.

female Ruddy Duck

The Ruddy duck is apparently on the list of Invasive Alien Species of Union Concern which basically means this species cannot be imported, bred, transported or intentionally released into the environment anywhere in the European Union.