Oxyura jamaicensis (ruddy duck)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Distribution Table
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Latitude/Altitude Ranges
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Pathway Causes
- Impact Summary
- Threatened Species
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Principal Source
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Oxyura jamaicensis (Gmelin, 1789)
Preferred Common Name
- ruddy duck
Other Scientific Names
- Anas jamaicensis Gmelin, 1789
International Common Names
- English: northern ruddy duck
- Spanish: malvasía cabeciblanca; malvasía canela; pato tepalcate
- French: erismature rousse
Local Common Names
- Denmark: Amerikansk skarveand
- Germany: schwartzkopf ruderente
- Iceland: hrókönd
- Italy: gobbo della giamaica
- Netherlands: rosse stekelstaarteend
- Norway: stivhaleand
- Sweden: Amerikansk kopparand
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
The ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) is common in the Americas, where it is native. However, it has become an invasive species in Europe where it mainly frequents freshwater lakes and man-made reservoirs. It is listed as an ‘invasive alien species of Union concern’ under EU Regulation No 1143/2014, and is regarded as the most serious threat to the survival of the globally endangered white-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala) due to the ability of the two species to hybridize freely. Ruddy ducks were introduced into waterfowl collections in the UK in the late 1940s, and by the mid-1950s several individuals had escaped to form a free-flying population in southwest England. The UK population had risen to about 4000 birds by 1998 , by which time annual breeding attempts were also thought to take place in Belgium, France, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands and Morocco. The first hybridization between the ruddy duck and the white-headed duck in the wild was recorded in 1991 in Spain, where at least 86 hybrids have been recorded despite a well-organized control programme to remove any ruddy ducks arriving in the country. Control programmes are also in place in France and Portugal, but not in The Netherlands where a viable population may still exist. In the UK, following regional control trials to find effective eradication methods, an eradication programme began in 2005, which has succeeded in reducing the UK population by 95% as of 2010.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Class: Aves
- Order: Anseriformes
- Family: Anatidae
- Genus: Oxyura
- Species: Oxyura jamaicensis
DescriptionTop of page
O. jamaicensis is a small diving duck with a long tail, often held erect. On average the females weigh 550 g and males around 600 g. During the breeding season males can be distinguished from other ducks by a white cheek patch, chestnut red body plumage and blue bill. Females are distinguished by their body structure and off-white cheek split by a horizontal brown stripe. Both sexes can be distinguished from the white-headed duck by their smaller size, shorter tail, thinner cheek stripe and concave bill profile.
DistributionTop of page
In its native range, O. jamaicensis is common and widely distributed through North America, the Caribbean, and Andean regions of South America. The latest information on its distribution in Europe between winter 2010/11 and summer 2016 (Hall, 2016) shows that France, the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK held the largest numbers of O. jamaicensis during both the winter and summer months. The population in France is concentrated in the west of the country, with the main wintering site close to Nantes on the Atlantic coast. In the Netherlands the birds occur mainly in the west of the country, and in Belgium most birds occur in Flanders with breeding attempts usually restricted to the Antwerp area, close to the Dutch border. In the UK, an eradication programme, which began in 2005, has caused the distribution to become highly fragmented, with very small numbers occurring in isolated populations from central Scotland and Northern Ireland in the north, down to the south coast of England. The UK, France, the Netherlands and Belgium have all experienced regular breeding events for many years, although only one event has occurred annually in recent years in Belgium, and the number of successful breeding attempts in the UK had fallen to two or three in 2015 and 2016. Other European countries contain much smaller numbers with no evidence of breeding. Switzerland reports regular sightings of up to three birds, whilst the Czech Republic, Finland, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain report irregular sightings of fewer than five birds (Hall, 2016).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 10 Jan 2020
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|Morocco||Absent||1986||Not recorded since at least winter 2010/11|
|Turkey||Absent, Unconfirmed presence record(s)||Possible sighting of a single bird in May 2016. It was not certain whether the bird was a ruddy duck or a hybrid (x white-headed duck). Occasional unconfirmed reports since 1988|
|Austria||Present||Introduced||1991||Invasive||Four records between 1996 and 2009|
|Belgium||Present||Introduced||1979||Invasive||32 birds in 2016|
|Czechia||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||1985||Invasive||Irregular sightings of less than five birds, 2011-2015 data|
|Denmark||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||1985||Invasive||Largest observation (1996 to 2009) – four birds. No recent data|
|Finland||Present||Introduced||1989||Invasive||rregular sightings of less than five birds, 2011-2015|
|France||Present, Localized||Introduced||1974||Invasive||Core area southern Brittany, Estimated peak wintering population in winter 2015/16 was 208 birds|
|Germany||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||1982||Invasive||Largest observation (1996 to 2009) – eight birds. No recent data|
|Hungary||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||1994||Invasive||Irregular sightings of less than five birds, 2011-2015|
|Iceland||Absent, Formerly present||1976||No records since winter 2010/11|
|Ireland||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||1973||Invasive||At least two female/immature birds in eastern Ireland, January 2015|
|Italy||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||1987||Invasive||24 records between 1996 and 2009, no recent data|
|Netherlands||Present, Localized||Introduced||1973||Invasive||Estimated peak of 62 in winter 2015/16|
|Norway||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||1984||Invasive||Irregular sightings of less than five birds, 2011-2015|
|Poland||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||Invasive||Irregular sightings of less than five birds, 2011-2015|
|Portugal||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||1989||Invasive||Irregular sightings of less than five birds, 2011-2015|
|-Azores||Present, Few occurrences||One individual recorded in 2009|
|Slovenia||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||1999||Invasive||Irregular sightings of less than five birds, 2011-2015|
|Spain||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||1982||Invasive||Irregular sightings of single birds, 2011-2015|
|-Balearic Islands||Absent, Formerly present||One record only, in 2001|
|Sweden||Absent, Formerly present||No sightings since 2008|
|Switzerland||Present, Few occurrences||Introduced||Invasive||Regular sightings of up to three birds, 2011-2015|
|United Kingdom||Present, Localized||Introduced||1960||Invasive||Population peaked at almost 6000 birds in 2001. Now approximately 20 birds remaining in very small, well scattered populations throughout UK|
|Anguilla||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|Antigua and Barbuda||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|Barbados||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|British Virgin Islands||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|Canada||Present, Widespread||Native||Mainly western areas of Canada but locally in Great Lakes areas|
|Dominica||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|Dominican Republic||Present, Localized||Native|
|Grenada||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|Guadeloupe||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|Martinique||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|Mexico||Present, Localized||Native||Mainly wintering birds, but breeds locally in the central Mexican interior|
|Montserrat||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|Puerto Rico||Present, Localized||Native|
|Saint Kitts and Nevis||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|Saint Lucia||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|U.S. Virgin Islands||Present, Few occurrences||Native|
|United States||Present, Widespread||Native||Main breeding area is from Minnesota to southern California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nebraska and Iowa. Sporadic breeding east to New York and south to Florida and coastal Texas. Winters along Pacific coast, Gulf coast, and Atlantic coast from Massachusetts to Florida, but principally between Maryland and North Carolina|
|Argentina||Present, Localized||Native||Andean regions|
|Bolivia||Present, Localized||Native||Andean regions|
|Chile||Present, Localized||Native||Andean regions|
|Colombia||Present, Localized||Native||Andean regions|
|Peru||Present, Localized||Native||Andean regions, and locally on coast|
IntroductionsTop of page
|Introduced to||Introduced from||Year||Reason||Introduced by||Established in wild through||References||Notes|
|Natural reproduction||Continuous restocking|
|UK||USA||1948||Botanical gardens and zoos (pathway cause)||Yes||No||Hudson (1976)||Three pairs brought to Wildfowl Trust, Slimbridge, UK to form part of collection. A number of escapes occurred from Slimbridge in the 1950s and 1960s, and the species first bred in the wild in the UK in 1960|
HabitatTop of page
The habitat of Oxyura jamaicensis (ruddy duck) includes marshes, lakes and coastal areas; and when not breeding, on sheltered brackish and marine coastal areas as well as lakes and rivers (temperate Zone). They nest on freshwater marshes, sloughs, lakes, and ponds, and in areas where open water is bordered by dense aquatic vegetation. The nest is a floating structure of marsh plants hidden by growing plants. Ruddy ducks lay eggs in nests of other waterfowl species. They may nest at potholes of less than an acre (InfoNatura, 2004).
Habitat ListTop of page
|Freshwater/Rivers / streams||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Terrestrial-natural/semi-natural/Wetlands||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Brackish/Estuaries||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Freshwater/Lakes||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Freshwater/Reservoirs||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Brackish/Lagoons||Principal habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
|Freshwater/Ponds||Secondary/tolerated habitat||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Oxyura jamaicensis (ruddy ducks) feed on benthic invertebrates, especially chironomid larvae.
Sexual. Seasonal - from April to August. Timing of breeding is controlled by physiological readiness modified by food availability, stability of water levels and available nesting cover. Egg-laying season is aligned symmetrically either side of longest day. Ruddy ducks may dump eggs and forego breeding if conditions become unsuitable. Breeding strategy is a mixture of monogamy, polygyny and promiscuity. Ruddy ducks can relay up to 4 times per season if eggs are lost. There is usually only one brood per year, but there can be a double brood (2-3 young per female per year).
Oxyura jamaicensis (ruddy ducks) produce large eggs to maximise survival of large nidifugous young. They breed first when one year old. They arrive on breeding grounds in April, nest building occurs mainly in May, incubation in June, and most broods hatch in July. Birds leave breeding areas in August/September. In the USA, age composition in autumn is estimated at 1:1 adults to juveniles. The sex ratio is male biased (c1.1-1.2 males per female in late winter). Survival rates are unknown. Maximum lifespan of wild ringed individuals in the USA is 13 years, but most were reported dead less than 2 years after ringing (US Dept. Interior unpubl. data); 18 captive birds had mean lifespan of 2.4 years.
ClimateTop of page
|BS - Steppe climate||Preferred||> 430mm and < 860mm annual precipitation|
|Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers|
|Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter||Preferred||Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)|
|Cf - Warm temperate climate, wet all year||Preferred||Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, wet all year|
|Ds - Continental climate with dry summer||Preferred||Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)|
|Dw - Continental climate with dry winter||Preferred||Continental climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry winters)|
Latitude/Altitude RangesTop of page
|Latitude North (°N)||Latitude South (°S)||Altitude Lower (m)||Altitude Upper (m)|
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Introduction pathways to new locations
Ignorant possession: Accidental releases from waterfowl collections.
Natural dispersal: Subsequent spread from the UK feral population to Europe.
Taken to botanical garden/zoo: Accidental releases from waterfowl collections.
Local dispersal methods
Escape from confinement:
Natural dispersal (local):
Impact SummaryTop of page
ImpactTop of page
Oxyura jamaicensis (ruddy duck) threatens the globally endangered white-headed duck (see Oxyura leucocephala in IUCN Red List of Threatened Species) with extinction through introgressive hybridisation and competition. It is known that ‘ruddy duck x white-headed duck’ hybrids are fertile to the second generation in captivity, which poses an increased threat to the survival of the white-headed duck. Given that white-headed ducks in Spain are now protected from hunting and habitat loss, introgression with the ruddy duck may be the greatest long-term threat to the white-headed duck (Henderson, 2010).
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Proved invasive outside its native range
- Has a broad native range
- Abundant in its native range
- Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
- Highly mobile locally
- Long lived
- Changed gene pool/ selective loss of genotypes
- Threat to/ loss of endangered species
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Difficult/costly to control
Uses ListTop of page
- Botanical garden/zoo
- Pet/aquarium trade
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
In the UK, a four year research programme (1992-1996) evaluated the success of seven control techniques (winter rifle-shooting, winter shotgun-shooting, summer rifle-shooting, summer shotgun-shooting (all shooting land based), winter trapping using baited cage traps, nest trapping females, and egg-control). Population modelling suggested that shooting was the most efficient technique for ruddy duck control, particularly breeding season shooting and shooting of the large wintering flocks (Henderson, 2010). Shooting during the summer breeding season was at least 2.5 times as efficient as nest-trapping, and at least 3.5 times as efficient as egg destruction (Hughes 1996). A regional trial of control methods (1999-2002), which controlled over 2,000 ruddy ducks, has shown shotgun-shooting from boats, throughout the year, to be even more cost effective. Following the research and trials, a programme aiming to eradicate ruddy ducks from the UK began in 2005. Since then over 6,800 ruddy ducks have been culled across England, Scotland and Wales, and as of March 2010 the UK population is thought to have been reduced by over 95% since the start of the eradication programme (Henderson, 2010).
National control programmes for ruddy ducks and hybrids are now in place in Spain (84 ruddy ducks and 57 hybrids shot to December 2000), France (43 ruddy ducks shot to October 2000) and Portugal (one ruddy duck and two hybrids shot), but not in other countries, such as The Netherlands, Belgium, and Morocco. In France and Spain where there are much smaller numbers of birds present, often only single birds in flocks of other ducks, a more selective shooting technique needs to be used, involving the use of rifles, hides (both floating and shore-based) and boats to move birds towards marksmen.
European countries aim for complete eradication by 2015, and the most recent data show that numbers continue to fall in Europe. In 2011, only two ruddy ducks were observed in Spain both of which were culled, and in France, 127 ruddy ducks were culled out of 239 recorded; in the UK, numbers have fallen to below 100 as of 2012. In the Netherlands, numbers remain low despite no current eradication programme (Fera, 2012).
Please follow this link to view BirdLife: White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala) for information on the population status of the white-headed and ruddy duck in Europe, legal protection, establishment of protected areas and planning conservation activities and the implementation of the recommendations of the Bern convention (Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats).
Please follow this link to read Hughes, B., Robinson, J.A., Green, A.J., Li, Z.W.D. & Mundkur, T. (Compilers). 2006. International Single Species Action Plan for the Conservation of the White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala.
BibliographyTop of page
BirdLife International 2006. Marmaronetta angustirostris. In: IUCN 2007. 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/141535/0
BirdLife International 2006. Oxyura leucocephala. In: IUCN 2004. 2004 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/141428/0
BirdLife International., 2012. White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala). http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=359
Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions. 1999. White-headed Duck Task Force: Recommendations for action within the UK to conserve the globally threatened White-headed duck.
The Food and Environment Agency (Fera), 2012. UK ruddy duck eradication programme project bulletin April 2012.
Green, A.J. and Hughes, B. 2001. In: Parkin, D.B. (Ed.). BWP Update: The journal of birds of the Western Palearctic. In press. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Green, A.J. and Hughes, B.J. 1996. Action plan for the white-headed duck Oxyura leucocephala. In: Heredia, B., L. Rose and M. Painter (Eds.). Globally threatened birds in Europe. Council of Europe Publishing, Strasbourg. 119-146.
Henderson I.S. 2010. The Eradication of Ruddy Ducks in the United Kingdom. Aliens: The Invasive Species Bulletin, 29: 17-24.
Hughes, B. 1992. The ecology and behaviour of the Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis jamaicensis (Gmelin) in Great Britain. PhD Thesis, University of Bristol. 212 pp.
Hughes, B. 1996. The feasibility of control measures for North American Ruddy Ducks (Oxyura jamaicensis) in the United Kingdom. Department of the Environement, UK. 153 pp.
Hughes, B. 1998. Ruddy Duck. In: Ogilvie, M.A. (Ed.). BWP Update: The journal of birds of the Western Palearctic. 2 (3): 159-171. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Hughes, B., Criado, J., Delany, S., Gallo-Orsi, U., Green, A.J., Grussu, M., Perennou, C., and Torres, J.A. 1999. The status of the North American Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis in the Western Palearctic: towards an action plan for eradication. Council of Europe Publication T-PVS/Birds (99) 9. Council of Europe Publishing, Strasbourg.
Hughes, B., Robinson, J.A., Green, A.J., Li, Z.W.D. & Mundkur, T. (Compilers). 2006. International Single Species Action Plan for the Conservation of the White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala. CMS Technical Series No. 13 & AEWA Technical Series No.8. Bonn, Germany. http://www.unep-aewa.org/publications/technical_series/ts8_ssap_white-headed-duck_complete.pdf
InfoNatura: Birds, mammals, and amphibians of Latin America [web application]. 2004. Version 3.2 . Arlington, Virginia (USA): NatureServe. http://www.natureserve.org/infonatura
IUCN, SEO/Birdlife, and Haut Commissariat aux Eaux et Forets et a la lutte contre la desertification du Maroc. 2004. Plan d’action pour le controle de l'erismature rousse au Maroc. (Action plan for ruddy ducks in Morocco) 2003-2005.
Smith, G. C., Henderson, I. S. and Robertson, P. A., 2005. A model of ruddy duck Oxyura jamaicensis eradication for the UK. Journal of Applied Ecology 2005 42, 546–555
ReferencesTop of page
Cranswick PA, Hall C, 2010. In: Eradication of the ruddy duck Oxyura jamaicensis in the Western Palaearctic: a review of progress and a revised Action Plan 2010–2015. WWT report to the Bern Convention . Strasbourg, France: Council of Europe Publishing .http://www.gt-ibma.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/pel-eradication-ruddy-duck.pdf
Fjeldså J, Krabbe N, 1990. Birds of the High Andes: A Manual to the Birds of the Temperate Zone of the Andes and Patagonia, South America, Apollo Books.880 pp.
Hall C, 2016. In: A review of the progress against the action plan for eradication of the ruddy duck Oxyura jamaicensis in the Western Palearctic, 2011 –2015. WWT report to the Bern Convention . Strasbourg, France: Council of Europe Publishing.https://rm.coe.int/16807461da
Henderson I, 2009. Progress of the UK ruddy duck eradication programme. British Birds, 102, 680-690.
Hudson R, 1976. Ruddy ducks in Britain. British Birds, 69, 132-143.
Irish Birding, 2017. In: IrishBirding.com, http://www.irishbirding.com/birds/web Irish Birding, 2017. http://www.irishbirding.com/birds/web
Johnsgard PA, Carbonell M, 1996. Ruddy ducks and other stifftails: their behaviour and biology, Oklahoma, USA: University of Oklahoma Press.291 pp.
Muntaner J, 2001. First record of the Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis in the Balearic Islands and conservation problems of the White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala. (Primera cita de malvasía canela Oxyura jamaicensis en Las Baleares y problemas de conservación de la malvasía cabeciblanca Oxyura leucocephala ). Anuari Ornitològic de Les Balears, 16, 41-46. https://www.raco.cat/index.php/AnuariOrnitologic/article/viewFile/138538/189515
Rodebrand S, 2012. Checklist of the birds of the Azores including 2012. http://sr-oland.se/onewebmedia/checklist.pdf
CABI, Undated. CABI Compendium: Status as determined by CABI editor. Wallingford, UK: CABI
Cranswick PA, Hall C, 2010. Eradication of the ruddy duck Oxyura jamaicensis in the Western Palaearctic: a review of progress and a revised Action Plan 2010–2015. WWT report to the Bern Convention., Strasbourg, France: Council of Europe Publishing. http://www.gt-ibma.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/pel-eradication-ruddy-duck.pdf
Fjeldså J, Krabbe N, 1990. Birds of the High Andes: A Manual to the Birds of the Temperate Zone of the Andes and Patagonia, South America., Apollo Books. 880 pp.
Hall C, 2016. A review of the progress against the action plan for eradication of the ruddy duck Oxyura jamaicensis in the Western Palearctic, 2011 –2015. WWT report to the Bern Convention., Strasbourg, France: Council of Europe Publishing. https://rm.coe.int/16807461da
Henderson I, 2009. Progress of the UK ruddy duck eradication programme. In: British Birds, 102 680-690.
Hudson R, 1976. Ruddy ducks in Britain. In: British Birds, 69 132-143.
Irish Birding, 2017. IrishBirding.com., http://www.irishbirding.com/birds/web
Johnsgard PA, Carbonell M, 1996. Ruddy ducks and other stifftails: their behaviour and biology., Oklahoma, USA: University of Oklahoma Press. 291 pp.
Muntaner J, 2001. First record of the Ruddy Duck Oxyura jamaicensis in the Balearic Islands and conservation problems of the White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala. (Primera cita de malvasía canela Oxyura jamaicensis en Las Baleares y problemas de conservación de la malvasía cabeciblanca Oxyura leucocephala). In: Anuari Ornitològic de Les Balears, 16 41-46. https://www.raco.cat/index.php/AnuariOrnitologic/article/viewFile/138538/189515
Rodebrand S, 2012. Checklist of the birds of the Azores including 2012., http://sr-oland.se/onewebmedia/checklist.pdf
ContributorsTop of page
09/022/17 Updated by:
Iain Henderson, Animal and Plant Health Agency, York, UK
Dr Baz Hughes, The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, Slimbridge, UK
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