This male Ring-necked Duck by Mary Parker Sonis actually shows the normally inconspicuous ring.

For more profiles, click BIRDS OF OCRACOKE SERIES

By Peter Vankevich

If one were to look at names of our birds of North America and get a chance to rename them, the Ring-necked Duck would be a top candidate. Watching one in a marsh, even with high-powered binoculars or even a spotting scope, the faint chestnut collar on its black neck is often impossible to see, which is why the above photo by Mary Parker Sonis is so remarkable.

But it caught the attention of 19th century biologists looking at dead specimens which provided the name. But what catches the attention of those observing them in their natural habitats is a black bill tip bordered by a prominent white band. Hence its informal name of “ringbill.”

The female, like many duck species, is brownish to be inconspicuous to would-be predators during nesting and also has a black bill tip and paler white band.

This diving duck is in the genus Aythya related to the Redhead, Greater and Lesser Scaup and nests in small, wooded ponds in boreal forests and prairie regions of the upper United States and throughout much of Canada.

From fall into early spring, they can be found, sometimes in large numbers, throughout North Carolina in waters with adequate subaquatic vegetation such as beaver ponds, lakes, and reservoirs with forested shorelines.

Best time to see: Early fall into winter.

Where: Possible in the sound and small ponds on the island; less likely in the ocean. The pond approaching the Hatteras ferry dock can be a possible location. This bird is not that common on Ocracoke. On the Outer Banks, Pea Island Wildlife Refuge is a better location to see them and the Mattamuskeet/Pungo lake areas on the mainland.

Listen: The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a variety of recordings. Soft-spoken, they make a series of short, high, grating barks or grunts. Females also make a high peeping call. Click here to listen.

Birds of the Outer Banks Checklist

The Ring-necked Duck was the Third Annual Ocracoke Waterfowl Festival official decoy chosen by featured carver Nathan Spencer. To read more, click here: Nathan Spencer: A native talent for waterfowl carving

Four Ring-necked Ducks, females in middle. Photo by Jeff Beane

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  1. All of your articles on the birds are worth reading, and the photos really help. This one was no exception. Keep ’em coming!

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