A handful of Ruddy Ducks visited on October 7, and were gone a few days later. Now a new batch have arrived. I counted nine, five males and four females. The males have the bright white cheeks; the females’ are light brown or grey. They breed in the central and northern states of the U.S. and in central Canada. Some breed in nearby Oregon and Washington State. They’re easy to spot from their habit of holding their tails up high, but not all the birds in this group did that. Males in breeding plumage have bright blue bills. All the males in this little group had dark brown or black bills.
Ruddies are not universally loved. A British lord imported them to the U,K. in 1948, where they rapidly multiplied and spread southward into the continent. They readily hybridized with the endangered native white-headed duck in southern Europe, threatening that species with extirpation. Spanish and other conservationists began a campaign to cull the Ruddy Duck population, and managed to reduce it from a peak of about 5,500 in 2000 to fewer than a hundred in 2014.