Of the 23 different ducks visiting Idaho during our winters, the ringneck is one of the most commonly seen migrating ducks. Ringnecks dive in search of underwater grasses and invertebrates. The male is often mistaken for the greater scaup, which also has a black back and white belly. When the male extends its neck, you can see a rust or chestnut-colored ring at the base, from which it gets its name. When the duck is sitting in the water, that ring is difficult to see. The best way to identify a ringneck is by the white band at the front of its bill.  The female ringneck has a similar white band as well, but is dark brown, with a light brown belly and greyish head. However, notwithstanding the name ringneck, the female doesn’t have a ring around her neck like her male counterpart.

Before a ringneck takes flight, it will typically stretch out its neck. That is your cue if you want to catch this bird in flight. It will take-off in the direction it is facing. But unlike the scaup or mallard, the ringneck gets off the water and into the air in a hurry, so you need to be prepared or you will miss this shot.