American Black Duck
American Black Ducks are similar to mallards in size, and resemble the female mallard in coloration, although the black duck’s plumage is darker. It is native to eastern North America and has shown reduction in numbers and increasing hybridization with the more common mallard as that species has spread with man-made habitat changes. The black duck has long been valued as a game bird, being extremely wary and fast on the wing. Although this is a species of least concern, it is slowly declining due to habitat destruction. Some conservationists consider the hybridization and competition with the mallard an additional source of concern, should this decline continue.
Male – The American Black Duck’s plumage resembles the female Mallard but is slightly darker. The body is dark brown while the head and neck is a lighter brown, a dark stripe through the dark eye, a yellow beak, the speculum is iridescent violet-blue with black margins, whitish under-wings, and orange-red legs and feet.
Female – The female is very similar to the male but has a dull green beak and olive colored legs and feet.
Eclipse – The male in eclipse plumage has a darker streaked head and neck.
Size: – Typical Adult is 21-23 inches.
Food: – Aquatic plants, seeds, roots, molluscs, crustaceans, and aquatic insects.
Habitat: – Wetlands, marshes, lakes, ponds, and rivers in north-eastern North America. They winter further south in south-eastern North America via the Atlantic Coast or Mississippi Valley.
Breeding Season: – From March to early May.
Eggs: – 6 to 14 (creamy-white or greenish-buff color).
Notes: – The American Black Duck is a large dabbling duck of eastern North America. They are similar to the Mallard which is a close relative, and which they interbreed with regularly. This was the most abundant duck in eastern North America but has declined since the 1950s due to habitat loss, hunting, and hybridization.
The different types of wild ducks can be grouped into puddle, aka “dabbling” and diving ducks. The dabblers mostly feed in smaller bodies of shallow water or along shorelines, where they are able to tip their bodies forward to reach their food on the bottom. There are divers who feed in deeper water where they dive and pursue their quarry. Some of these birds, the Harlequin Duck for example, actually dives to the bottom of fast-flowing waters and feeds on life forms attached to rocks.