Bird Database

Ring-necked Duck

(Aythya collaris)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Short distance




Wetland loss, Climate change, Disease

Conservation Actions

Manage waterfowl harvest, Wetland protection

Ring-necked Duck

(Aythya collaris)

During spring and fall migration Ring-necked Ducks can be an abundant species on shallow freshwater ponds throughout New Hampshire. Some sites seem particularly attractive to the species, such as Powwow Pond in Kingston where flocks of over 300 have been reported. All these ducks are coming from eastern Canada and northern New England, where they nest primarily in forested wetlands. The species is relatively new to the Northeast, only expanding east of the Great Lakes in the 1930s. In New Hampshire it breeds primarily in Coos County, with the highest densities around Lake Umbagog. There are scattered nesting records south of the White Mountains, but these are often ephemeral.

Although it is a diving duck, the Ring-neck also takes food from the water surface by tipping up of babbling. Its diet shifts significantly over the year, with plant material dominating during fall migration and winter. Most of this winter food is comprised of seeds, including water lilies and wild rice, although it will also pull tubers from the sediment during dives. In spring, as birds prepare for nesting, they shift to more invertebrate food, including mollusks and aquatic insects. This is particularly true of females and newly hatched young, with the latter incorporating more seeds and other plants as they mature.

No discussion of the Ring-necked Duck is complete without acknowledging the inappropriateness of its name. Why not Ring-billed Duck, since that feature is far more obvious? There is in fact a neck ring, but it is narrow and brown and almost impossible to detect between the glossy purplish head and black breast. It’s easier to see the ring close up, which presumably led the original describer to use it in the scientific name (collaris). The next time you see a male Ring-necked Duck in good light, take a closer look and see if you can see this collar for yourself.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Ring-necked Duck
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count