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Breeding males have a buffy head that is heavily streaked with black, especially through the eye and on the tip of the head. The upperparts are blackish brown. The underparts feathers are dark sooty brown with pale reddish and buff margins; the secondaries are iridescent bluish purple; the tertials are glossy black next to the speculum, gray to blackish brown otherwise.
Both males and females have a greenish yellow to bright yellow bill, with small black spotting. The feet and legs of the male are orange red, while those of the female are dusky to olive-colored.
In flight, the black duck appears to be nearly black, with an underwing coloration that is in contrast with the rest of its plumage.
Distribution and Habitat
Black ducks breed from Manitoba southeast to Minnesota, east through the Great Lakes region to Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia, and in the forested portions of eastern Canada to northern Quebec and northern Labrador. They winter in the southern parts of their breeding range, and south to the Gulf Coast of Florida and Bermuda.
During the breeding season black ducks live in a variety of fresh and brackish waters in forest environments, including alkaline marshes, acid bogs, muskegs, lakes, ponds, stream margins, and tidewater bays and estuaries. The rest of the year they live on large, open lagoons and on the coast.
Breeding pairs begin to form around the end of September, and breeding starts in March and April.
Older females usually return to their nesting areas of previous years, and may even use an old nest site if still available. The nest consists of a scrape on the ground, concealed among vegetation, sometimes in tree cavities or crotches, and lined with plant matter and down.
Nine to ten eggs are laid, usually one per day, and are incubated by the female alone for about 27 days. Young are able to leave the nest a few hours after hatching, but remain with their mother until their sixth or seventh week.
Black ducks eat the seeds and vegetative parts of aquatic and crop plants, as well as a relatively high proportion of invertebrates. They feed primarily by grazing, probing, dabbling or upending in shallow water, although they will occasionally dive.
Habits and Behaviors
Black ducks are highly gregarious outside of the breeding season, occuring in flocks numbering in the thousands of birds. Flock sizes gradually diminish, however, as breeding pairs break away from the unpaired individuals.
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This page was last updated on March 22, 2018.