Red-head

The first group we shall consider is represented by the genus Aythya, of which the Red-head (A. americana) may be taken as a good example. It is about twenty inches long, the male having the head and upper neck bright red-dish chestnut, the lower part of the neck, chest, upper part of the back, rump, and upper tail-coverts black, the back, scapulars, sides, and flanks finely barred with wavy lines of black, the wing-coverts gray, while the abdomen is pure white.

The bill is pale blue tipped with black and the iris bright yellow. The Red-head is found throughout the whole of North America, breeding from Maine and California northward and coming south in winter as far as the Bahamas and middle America. It frequents bays, lakes, and large rivers, being especially abundant in winter in the Chesapeake Bay, feeding largely on roots and leaves of Vallisneria, or wild celery, as it is called. It then becomes very fat and rivals the celebrated Canvas-back as a table bird, and is not infrequently sold under the name of its near relative, which it closely resembles. Large numbers are shot for market or caught in nets. Several nests of this species were found by Mr. Bent in the Devil’s Lake region of North Dakota. They were placed in clumps of reeds and were handsome nests, made of dead weeds; deeply hollowed and lined with broken pieces of weeds mingled with considerable white down; they were usually on masses of dead weeds built from shallow water and held in place by living reeds growing through them. One nest contained twenty-two eggs, but this was an unusual number, twelve or fifteen being the ordinary cornplement. The Red-head seems to be particularly careless about laying its eggs in the nests of other Ducks, Mr. Bent finding three cases of from three to five occurring in nests of the Canvas-back, and scattered eggs were seen in nests of the Ruddy Duck and others. In color they vary from olive-buff to a light cream-buff,and in size from two and forty-five hundredths to one and seventy-two hunredths inches.