Birds of America
By John James Audubon, F. R. SS. L. & E.
THE RING-NECKED DUCK.
FULIGULA RIUFITORQUES, Bonap.
PLATE CCCXCVIII.--MALE AND FEMALE.
The Ring-necked Duck is abundant on all our western waters during autumn
and winter. It is also met with along our Atlantic coasts; but there, although
I have seen many individuals on the Chesapeake and other large arms of the sea,
it is by no means so plentiful as in the interior. Its flesh is excellent,
equalling in my opinion that of any other Duck; and when it has been feeding
along the margins of rivers, creeks, or ponds for a few weeks, it becomes very
fat, tender, and juicy, and has none of the fishy flavour of those species which
are in the habit of diving deep for their food. In shape, the Tufted Duck, or
Ring-bill, as it is called in Kentucky, resembles the Scaup or Flocking Fowl,
but is plumper and more rounded.
This bird arrives in Kentucky and the neighbouring States, as far down the
Mississippi as New Orleans, from the 20th of September to the middle of October,
at which latter period it may be found in the whole extent of the Union, from
Massachusetts to Louisiana, being more numerous in some distincts than in
others, according to the suitableness of the place. They commonly move while on
wing in flocks of from fifteen to twenty individuals, keeping rather scattered,
and thus rarely affording what is called a good shot. They fly with rapidity,
keeping at a considerable height, and the motion of their wings produces a
constant whistling as they pass over head. Before alighting, they wheel and
perform various evolutions, although they do not occupy so much time with them
as Teals are wont to do.
They swim rather lightly and with ease, and, unlike the Scaups, experience
no difficulty in rising on wing, whether from the land or from the water, but
generally spring up at once, especially if alarmed. They have an almost
constant practice of raising the head in a curved manner, partially erecting the
occipital feathers, and emitting a note resembling the sound produced by a
person blowing through a tube. At the approach of spring the males are observed
repeating this action every now and then, while near the females, none of which
seem to pay the least attention to their civilities.
Whilst in ponds, they feed by diving and dabbling with their bills in the
mud amongst the roots of grasses, of which they eat the seeds also, as well as
snails and all kinds of aquatic insects. When on rivers, their usual food
consists of small fish and crays, the latter of which they procure at the
bottom. A male which I shot near Louisville, in the beginning of May, exhibited
a protuberance of the neck so very remarkable as to induce me to cut the skin,
when I found a frog, the body of which was nearly two inches long, and which had
almost choked the bird, as it allowed me to go up within a dozen or fifteen
paces before I took aim. This species remains with us in the Western Country
later than most others of its tribe, and not unfrequently as late as the
We are indebted for the discovery of this species to my friend the Prince
of MUSIGNANO, who first pointed out the difference between it arid the Tufted
Duck of Europe. The distinctions that exist in the two species he ascertained
about the time of my first acquaintance with him at Philadelphia in 1824, when
he was much pleased on seeing my drawing of a male and a female, which I had
made at Louisville, in Kentucky, previous to WILSON'S visit to me there. WILSON
supposed it identical with the European species.
The summer haunts and habits of this Duck have not been ascertained; for
although Dr. RICHARDSON mentions that he found it not rare in the Fur Countries,
he says nothing of its eggs or nest. While with us it has no long crest, but I
am inclined to think that at the commencement of the breeding season that
appendage may be developed.
FULIGULA RUFITORQUES, Bonap. Syn., p. 393.
TUFTED DUCK, Anas Fuligula, Wils. Amer. Orn., vol. viii. p. 60.
RING-NECKED DUCK, Anas (Fuligula) rufitorques, Swains. and Rich. F. Bor.
Amer., vol. ii. p. 453.
RING-NECKED DUCK, Fuligula rufitorques, Nutt. Man., vol. ii. p. 439.
RING-NECKED DUCK, Fuligula rufitorques, Aud. Orn. Biog., vol. iii.p. 259.
Male, 18, 28. Female, 16.
Abundant on the Ohio during autumn, winter, and early spring; rather rare
along the coasts of the Middle Atlantic Districts. Breeds far north.
Bill about the same length as the head, rather deeper than broad at the
base, depressed and enlarged towards the end, the frontal angles acute. Upper
mandible with the dorsal line at first sloping, then concave, along the unguis
decurved, the ridge broad and flat at the base, then broadly convex, the sides
nearly flat and perpendicular at the base, convex and sloping towards the end,
the edges soft, with about forty-five internal lamellae, unguis obovate, curved.
Nostrils sub-basal, lateral, rather small, oval, pervious. Lower mandible flat,
with the angle very long and rather narrow, the dorsal line very short, slightly
convex, the edges with about sixty-five lamellae and smaller intermediate ones
Head of moderate size, neck rather long and slender, body full and
depressed, wings rather small. Feet very short, strong, placed rather far
behind; tarsus very short, compressed, at its lower part anteriorly with two
series of scutella, the rest covered with reticulated angular scales. Toes
scutellate above, first very small, free, with a broad membrane beneath, fourth
longest, third scarcely shorter; claws small, curved, compressed, obtuse, the
hind one smaller, more curved and acute, that of the third toe with an inner
Plumage dense, soft, blended, rather glossy. Feathers of the middle of the
head, and upper part of hind neck, very narrow and a little elongated; of the
rest of the head and upper part of the neck very short, of the back and lower
parts in general broad and rounded. Wings of moderate length, narrow, acute;
primaries curved, strong, tapering, first longest, second very little shorter;
secondaries broad, rounded, short, the inner long and tapering. Tail very
short, rather broad, much rounded, of sixteen rounded feathers.
Bill black, with a basal band, the edges of both mandibles, and a band
across the upper towards the end, pale blue. Iris yellow. Legs greyish-blue,
the webs brownish-black. The head, and upper part of the neck, greenish-black,
with purple reflections. A brownish-red collar, broader before, on the middle
of the neck. Its lower part all round, as well as the back, scapulars, smaller
wing-coverts, and posterior part of abdomen, brownish-black. Inner secondaries
of the same colour, outer bluish-grey on the outer web, light brown on the
inner, as are the primaries, of which the outer webs and tips are dark brown.
Tail brownish-grey. Chin white, breast greyish-white, sides and fore part of
abdomen greyish-white, minutely undulated with greyish-brown.
Length to end of tail 18 inches, to end of wings 16; extent of wings 28;
wing from flexure 7 3/4; tail 2 1/2; bill along the back 2 1/12, along the edge
of lower mandible 1 11/12; tarsus 1 4/12; middle toe 2 2/12, its claw 4/12.
The female has the neck umber-brown, the upper part of the head darker, the
back blackish-brown, the speculum bluish-grey, as in the male, the breast
brownish-white, the loral spaces and chin pale brown, the abdomen umber-brown.
Length 16 inches.
The Tufted Duck of Europe, Fuligula cristata, is very intimately allied to
this species. The bill of the latter is longer, narrower, and differently
coloured, the unguis broader at the end, as is the flat triangular space at the
base of the upper mandible. The bill of the Scaup Duck is still broader towards
the end, with a much narrower unguis, and the flattened part of the upper
mandible still narrower than in the Tufted Duck; the colour of the speculum is
also different, being bluish-grey in the Ring-necked Duck, and white in the two
allied species. The females of the Ring-necked and Scaup Ducks, which are
nearly similar in colour, differ in the speculum, and in the peculiar form of