American Black Duck
Habitat: This duck lives in a variety of wetland habitats, both freshwater and marine. These include the shallow margins of lakes, streams, bays, mud flats, and open waters. They can nest in both dry and wet woodlands. It returns to the same location each fall and in many cases, will starve rather than migrate. A regular return to the same wintering ground is a common characteristic of all ducks, but is especially pronounced in this case.
Summer Range: From the Maritime provinces west into Manitoba and Saskatchewan.
Winter Range: From the east coast of the United States west to central Texas, and north almost to Manitoba.
Food: Ducklings feed entirely on aquatic invertebrates such as mosquito larvae and other insects or tiny water animals. The adults eat tadpoles, snails, seeds, and tubers of aquatic plants.
During the winter months, these ducks depend on animal foods like periwinkles, mussels and snails in their winter coastal habitat. Also, waste corn in harvested fields near water areas sustain them in late fall and winter.
The American black duck forages by tipping up its bill and dipping it into the water to pick up vegetation.
Breeding Behaviour: Adults usually select a mate by mid-December and almost all are paired by the time they arrive at their breeding grounds in the spring.
The American black duck has suffered somewhat from the introduction of captive-raised mallards into its breeding range. The species hybridize (interbreed), and the mallard may take over some breeding spots from the black duck. Still, the black duck seems to be holding its own in most of its range.
Nest Type and Egg Description: Typically, nests are built on the ground in concealing vegetation, such as a clump of grass, under a shrub or tree, in a hole or fork in a tree near the ground. The female digs a nest, which she then lines with grasses, leaves and other dry plant material. Finally, she adds her own plucked down or fine feathers during the period where she lays seven to 12 creamy white or greenish-buff eggs.
Conservation Status: Once the most common dabbling duck in North America, populations of the American black duck dropped drastically to an all time low in the 1980s as a result of hunting, habitat loss, and competition with mallards.
In response to declining populations, hunting this duck was restricted in 1983. Following this restriction and the North American Waterfowl Plan, an initiative to protect and enhance wetland habitats as well as the Black Duck Joint Venture started by Canada and the United States, populations have stabilized and may be on the rise, but are still half of what they were in the 1950s.
Information on this page compiled by Jessie Blake.
BirdLife International. http://www.birdlife.org
Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. http://www.cosewic.gc.ca/eng/sct5/index_e.cfm
Cornell Lab of Ornithology. All About Birds. http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/.
Ehrlich, Paul R. 1988. The Birder’s Handbook. Simon and Schuster, New York.
Godfrey, Earl W. 1986. Birds of Canada. National Museums of Canada, Ottawa.
Hinterland Who’s Who. http://www.hww.ca
Leslie, Scott. 2006. Wetland Birds of North America. Key Porter Books, Toronto. NatureServe. InfoNatura. http://www.natureserve.org/infonatura/