The Canvasback Duck is a species of diving duck, the largest found in North America. The duck’s common name is based on early European inhabitants of North America’s assertion that its back was a canvas-like color. The breeding habitat of the canvasback duck is in North America prairie potholes. The bulky nest is built from vegetation in a marsh and lined with down. Loss of nesting habitat has caused populations to decline. The canvasback usually takes a new mate each year, pairing in late winter on ocean bays.
Male – The male Canvasback duck has a reddish-chestnut head and neck, red eyes, black breast, pale-grey vermiculated central body, black rump and black-brown tail. Both sexes have a long sloping black beak and bluish-grey legs and feet.
Female – The female has a light-brown head and neck, pale eye stripe and throat, dark-brown breast, upper-parts are brownish-grey, under-parts are pale grey, and dark-brown eyes.
Eclipse – The eclipse male is much more duller than its breeding plumage. It differs from the female as it has red eyes and the female has brown eyes.
Size: – Typical Adult is 19-22 inches.
Food: – Mainly aquatic plants, grasses, wild celery, seeds, leaves but also some molluscs, dragonflies, and insects.
Habitat: – Wetlands, prairie marshes surrounded by vegetation, and sub-arctic river deltas of north-west USA. Wintering along coastlines and estuaries in southern USA and Mexico.
Breeding Season: – May to early June.
Eggs: – 7-10 (olive-green color).
Notes: – The Canvasback duck is a large North American diving duck. There has been a major decline of these ducks due to drought, drainage of prairie marshes, and hunting although there has been a recent hunting ban on these birds.
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.