Black Duck Study

Spanning the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways

American black duck populations have declined by as much as 60 percent in traditional wintering areas. Several possible explanations exist for this decline, one of which is the loss and degradation of quality wintering habitat in the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways. In response to this issue Ducks Unlimited and its partners initiated multi-year studies in New York, New Jersey and Virginia to examine wintering ecology and to quantify food resources and carrying capacity for wintering and spring staging black ducks along the Atlantic Flyway.

This year the black duck research initiative will be expanded to include the use of satellite transmitters with GPS technology, which will allow researchers to track birds for up to 3 years as they move between wintering areas in New Jersey, Virginia and Ohio, and breeding areas.


The primary objectives of the black duck research initiative are to:

  1. Document local habitat use, movement and activities of wintering black ducks in Ohio, New Jersey, New York and Virginia.
  2. Determine the availability and depletion of important black duck food sources along the Atlantic coast during winter.
  3. Determine current food habits of black ducks wintering the Atlantic coast.
  4. Estimate the energetic carrying capacity of habitats along the Atlantic coast for wintering black ducks.
  5. Determine linkages among wintering, migration (spring and fall) and breeding location.
  6. Document geographic habitat use patterns, identify key migration areas and examine variation over both spring and fall migration among hens from different wintering areas.
  7. Determine migration chronology, duration and turnover, and examine differences among hens from different wintering areas.
  8. Determine the true metabolizable energy of foods commonly found in the black duck diet.

Wetland landscape

Navigating the Study


Black Duck Study in the News