Ruddy duck performing bubble display

Ruddy ducks are native to Americas, found on open water bodies like lakes, small bays, and marshes. They are one of the most cartoonish looking ducks with a bright sky blue bill, a bold white cheek patch, and a shining chestnut-colored body in their breeding plumage. Ruddy ducks form pairs on their breeding grounds. The male performs a unique, highly comical courtship display. He strikes the beak against the inflated neck, creating bubbles as air is forced out from his feathers. This display also involves a stiff tail held straight up and ends with a loud belch-like call. They are one of my favorite ducks, and I love watching them on their breeding grounds.

Fun Fact: Pleistocene fossils of Ruddy Ducks, at least 11,000 years old, have been unearthed in Oregon, California, Virginia, Florida, and Illinois.

Why this photo works

I got in my waders and entered the small lake where this male duck was setting up his nesting territory. This photo perfectly captures all the elements of the bubble display of a Ruddy duck. High shutter speed allowed to freeze the water bubbles as this male duck forced out the air, and the beak struck the neck. As a bonus, the stiff tail creates a nice triangle with his slightly raised wings.

I captured this action at the eye level by getting low to the water level, creating an intimate photograph. The low angle also created a pleasingly smooth foreground and background. The reflection on a clam, mirror-like water makes this photograph even better.

Technical Details

 Canon EOS-1D X
 EF600mm f/4L IS II USM +1.4x III
 JUNE 15, 2019 @ 10:00 AM

Using Format