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Wetland Waterfowl and Wildlife

American black duck

Did you know

The American black duck is a large dabbling duck. The drake and hen are similar in appearance and are easily distinguished only by the colour of their bill, which is greenish yellow on the drake and dull olive green to black on the hen. Both male and female black duck resemble a mallard hen, but have noticeably darker black-brown body that contrasts with their light brown head.

Common name: American Black Duck
Scientific name: Anas rubripes
Diet: Omnivorous, varies on age
Average life span: 27 years
Length: 48-63 cm
Weight: 1160-1330 g

Food & Habitat

American black ducks prefer shallow lakes, ponds, streams, bays, coves, mudflats, wetlands, woodland ponds and surrounding uplands. Young depend on tree-lined brooks and ponds for larvae from mosquitos and other insects during their first two weeks of life. Poorly-timed pesticide use and acid rain can threaten early survival. Mature birds rely on plants.

Breeding & Population

The highest breeding densities are found in Maine and Nova Scotia. American black ducks utilize a variety of habitats for breeding, such as alkaline marshes, acid bogs, lakes, stream margins, fresh, brackish and salt marshes, and the margins of estuaries. Hens lay an average of 9 eggs.

The black duck is found throughout eastern parts of Canada and the United States.

Migration

The black duck winters in eastern coastal areas of the U.S., and in open water along the Great Lakes.

Interesting facts

  • Prior to the 1930’s, the mallard was a rare visitor to eastern North America, however, the species’ ranges now overlap. In areas where both species are found, the ducks interbreed and compete for resources. The effect of the interbreeding on the black duck population is not well understood, but the mallard-like appearance of the offspring suggests that mallards are dominant in the hybridization.
  • 50% of the total population breeds in the boreal forest of Quebec.