Ruddy duck at Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge
Males typically abandon females during early incubation, leaving only females to care for young, as common in other ducks. Earlier reports (Bent 1925, Oring 1964a) of males caring for young probably erroneous. Males remaining near broods probably more interested in forming pair bonds with females; frequently court and show little interest in broods (Joyner 1977a, RBB). Most females abandon ducklings before they can fly; mean age of ducklings when abandoned by radio-marked brood females was 20.1 d ± 4.6 SD (Brua 1998a). Duration of female care associated positively with brood size, but unrelated to female condition, hatch date, and duckling mortality prior to brood abandonment (Brua 1998a). Some females (9% of 66 brood females) remained with ducklings and molted remiges (RBB).
Photo: Tom Koerner/USFWS