Why it’s called a Ring-necked Duck (even though ring-billed would make more sense)

Photo by Chris Bosak Ring-necked Duck in Darien, March 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
Ring-necked Duck in Darien, March 2014.

It took years for me to start calling this duck by it’s proper name: Ring-necked Duck. I would invariably blurt out “Look, Ring-billed Duck.” But, unlike the Ring-billed Gull, this bird is not named for an obvious ring around its bill.

Instead it is named after a hardly-noticeable ring around its neck. Conditions, including the posture of the duck, need to be right to even see the neck ring. The ring around the bill, however, is obvious in most conditions, unless the duck is sleeping with its bill tucked into its back feathers. Even the female, which is mostly brown in color, has a ring around her bill. (She also has a faint ring around her neck.)

So why Ring-necked Duck? Ornithologists in the 1800s named many birds by studying dead specimens. Apparently with the bird so close the chestnut colored neck band is more obvious, so it was named as such. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to the average birder (like me) in the field, but it is what it is. The above photo shows both the ringed neck and ringed bill of the beautiful duck.

Ring-necked Ducks are seen throughout New England, mostly in fresh-water ponds and lakes, from late fall through early spring.

Photo by Chris Bosak A pair of Ring-necked Ducks rest at a pond in Darien, March 2014.

Photo by Chris Bosak
A pair of Ring-necked Ducks rest at a pond in Darien, March 2014.

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