Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Redhead - Aythya americana
ANATIDAE Members:
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General Comments As with the Canvasback, the Redhead had suffered continental population declines in recent decades, but wintering numbers in the state now (2017) seem to be rebounding, and the peak counts are now from the past few years. Its winter range is quite localized, with several favored feeding grounds -- mostly Core Sound and the Pea Island/Pamlico Sound area -- hosting a few thousand birds, often in dense mono-specific flocks. Over 90% of the wintering population feeds in shallow sounds/bays; birds seen on coastal lakes and impoundments are often simply roosting or sleeping. However, the species does forage in fresh water, such as on larger lakes and impoundments. Unlike the Canvasback, which is a casual visitor to the mountains, the Redhead occurs in small numbers nearly every season (though as transients/visitors).
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S3N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Winter resident. Generally uncommon along the northern coast and in the Tidewater area, south to Core Sound and the lower Neuse River; abundant in a few areas: Core Sound, and Pamlico Sound adjacent to Pea Island NWR (as well as on several impoundments on the refuge). Rare to locally uncommon inland and farther south along the coast. Mainly late Oct to mid-Apr, but a few summer records. Peak count: 18,000, Pea Island NWR, 28 Dec 2015; 10,000, Pea Island, 16 Jan and 27 Jan 2017; 10,000, Core Sound near Ophelia Inlet (Carteret), 19 Feb 2017. A count of 180 at two ponds along US 64 in Edgecombe, 9 Mar 2014, was quite high for an inland site.
Piedmont Winter visitor/resident. Rare to locally uncommon, mostly in the eastern portion of the province. Generally mid-Nov to mid-Mar. Peak counts: 150, Blewett Falls Lake, 28 Feb 2001.
Mountains Winter visitor; rare to locally uncommon, essentially at lower elevations (below 3,000 feet). Mainly mid-Nov to mid-Mar, rarely to late Apr. Two in Henderson lingered as late as 14 May 2017. Peak counts: 132, Lake Julian, 28 Feb 2001; 110 at this lake, 20 Nov 1988.
Finding Tips This can be an elusive bird to find, even though thousands winter in the state. Several thousand winter in Core Sound, but they are hard to see well. One or two dense flocks winter on New Field and other impoundments at Pea Island, but these can be off-limits to visitors, though birds often occur on nearby North Pond (accessible to the public). At other accessible sites, scattered birds are seen along the Lake Mattamuskeet causeway, US 70 in eastern Carteret, and from various ferries. Mid-Nov seems to be the best time for finding Redheads. Except for Core Sound and Pea Island, Redheads are generally found as scattered birds in large rafts of other divers such as Lesser Scaups, Canvasbacks, and American Coots.
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Attribution LeGrand[2017-12-07], LeGrand[2017-08-23], LeGrand[2016-12-21]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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NA Maps
(source NatureServe)

View NatureServe distribution maps for Aythya americana