The male Ring-Necked Ducks look quite like the greater and lesser scaup, but their peaked head, white bill markings and uniformly dark upper wings make them easy to identify. The males have an iridescent black head with a purple tinge, a black neck, and breast. The belly and flanks are white with a small white mark in front of the folded wing. The bill is light gray with a black tip and a faint white band behind the black tip.
The female Ring-Necked Ducks look more like female redheads but are smaller in size than them. They have a faint brown ring around the base of the neck which is where the name came from. The legs and feet are a grayish blue and the eyes are golden. These ducks are silent except when involved in a mating display when a low whistling sound is uttered.
Ring-Necked Ducks breed from Alaska to California including all of the coast and eastward through northern Canada right to Newfoundland. They prefer sedge lined swamps and bogs that are surrounded by scrub brush and small trees.
Ring-Necked Ducks will form pairs during the spring migration to the breeding grounds. They will nest on dry hummocks close to water or on floating islands of vegetation in the water. The nest is a shallow bowl filled with vegetation and down. Most of the nest construction (by the female alone) is complete when incubation begins. The female typically lays up to 10 eggs and incubates them for up to 29 days. The pair bond dissolves when the female begins to incubate, the male leaves to head to the molting grounds. Within 24 hours of hatching, the young ducklings head to the water where they feed themselves. The female tends the young and may continue to brood them at night for some time. Unlike many divers, which bring their broods out into the open water, the female Ring-Necked Duck hides her brood in the marsh. The young are capable of flight by 55 days. The female usually stays with the young until this point.