Drake Redhead Courtship Display

/, Redheads, Salt Lake County, Utah/Drake Redhead Courtship Display

Drake Redhead beginning the Head-throw courtship displayDrake Redhead beginning the Head-throw courtship display- Nikon D500, f6.3, 1/800, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

In early January I made a quick trip down to the local pond at about 10 o’clock in the morning because the sun had peeked through the dark gray clouds and I wanted to see if anything was happening with the ducks, geese, coots, grebes and possibly the Peregrine Falcon I had found there a few days earlier.

I’m glad that I made the trip down to the pond because I was able to photograph a drake Redhead exhibiting courtship display behavior several times as he tried to impress the hen that was nearby. I noticed that his neck and face sort of ballooned right before…

Redhead drake exhibiting Head-throw displayRedhead drake exhibiting Head-throw display- Nikon D500, f6.3, 1/800, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

The drake Redhead would move his head back into the Head-throw posture. I have to say the female wasn’t even paying attention to him, she was just outside of the frame here with her head tucked under her wing and her eyes shut.

Redhead drake showing extreme posture of Head-throw displayRedhead drake showing extreme posture of Head-throw display- Nikon D500, f6.3, 1/800, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

The hen Redhead was really missing out on what I was seeing and photographing. This photo shows the drake in the most extreme posture of the Head-throw display behavior although I have read that sometimes the bill of the drake can touch the water in this position. Perhaps the hen wasn’t impressed but I certainly was!

Redhead drake Kinked-Neck displayRedhead drake Kinked-Neck display- Nikon D500, f6.3, 1/800, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

When the drake raised his head back up he gave what is called the Kinked-Neck display but to no avail because the hen Redhead didn’t even open her eyes.

I guess I could wish that the Redhead had been closer when I photographed this redhead drake performing his courtship display and that the angle of light had been better but I was delighted to see and photograph the courtship behavior of this diving duck that morning.

Life is good.



  1. Pepe Forte February 8, 2018 at 5:39 pm

    I dunno Mia, I try those night moves out on my wife all the time and it never works. She’s been sleeping through them for 50 years. I feel the Drakes pain.

    But, as always, great pics and a wonderful narrative. Thanks.

  2. Lois Bryan February 7, 2018 at 5:31 pm

    gorgeous little guy … gorgeous capture, Mia!!!!!! I really do need to stop by WP more often … I’ve missed you and your posts!!! What an inspiration you are!!!!!!

  3. Ingrid February 7, 2018 at 3:21 pm

    I didn’t know this was a courtship display! How beautiful. I haven’t seen Redheads often, but always do double takes if I see the back of a Canvasback head, just in case. 😉

  4. Liz Cormack February 6, 2018 at 9:28 am

    That poor drake. All that effort to no avail. Gorgeous photos.

  5. Laura Culley February 6, 2018 at 8:55 am

    What a splendid behavioral series! But sometimes you just gotta laugh at males’ attempts to capture a female’s attention! And behaviors are similar across species in that they try to get her attention through often outrageous stunts. I love watching grackles when the males put on their best display and the female(s) are nearby, generally feeding and not paying attention with an attitude of “Whatever Dude.” Female raptors insist that their prospective or ongoing mates perform circus-level flights of passion along with providing regular sumptuous (?) meals, proving they can support her and her family for the coming year. I could go on and on, but I won’t. Y’all know what I mean 😉

  6. Glen Fox February 6, 2018 at 8:13 am

    This is a species I seldom see, and have never seen them courting. The elements are common to many diving ducks, but clearly have their own distinct Redhead flavour. Thanks for sharing Mia. Some day I hope I’ll have the same photographic opportunity!

  7. Patty Chadwick February 6, 2018 at 8:07 am

    I echo what Marty said….very glad you decided to check out that pond…(the colors of thhat bird are so rich and wonderful!)

  8. Andy February 6, 2018 at 6:44 am

    Wonderful capture and account of this behavior. Such a beautiful bird.

  9. Marty K February 6, 2018 at 6:17 am

    Wow! That is an impressive maneuver. The hen may not have been interested, but we are! So glad you happened to make that quick trip.

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