American black duck — Ducks Unlimited Canada
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Know your waterfowl

American black duck

Anas rubripes

Black duck. ©DUC

Black ducks and mallards breed together and compete for resources where their populations overlap.


  • 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 the male and female black duck resemble a mallard hen, but have a noticeably darker black-brown body that contrasts with their light brown head


  • Most black ducks arrive on the breeding grounds already paired.
  • Females select a nest site that is located in wooded, bushy or grassy areas under overhanging vegetation that protects and conceals the nest.
  • Females lay an average of nine greenish buff or creamy white eggs, which they incubate for about 26 days.
  • The female stays with her ducklings for seven to eight weeks until they are able to fly. She then retires to a secluded area to moult. Males typically abandon females during mid-incubation and move to larger lakes and wetlands to moult their feathers

Habitat: Shallow lakes, ponds, streams, bays, coves, mudflats, wetlands, woodland ponds and surrounding uplands

Range: The black duck is found throughout eastern parts of Canada and the United States.  The species winters in eastern coastal areas of the U.S., and in open water along the Great Lakes.

Diet: 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.

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.

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