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American Black Duck


The American black duck breeds from the upper Mississippi River across to the northeastern United States, north into Manitoba, across Ontario, and into the eastern Canadian provinces. The highest breeding densities are found in Maine and Nova Scotia. American black ducks utilize a variety of habitats for breeding, such as alkaline marshes, acid bogs, lakes, stream margins, fresh, brackish and salt marshes, and the margins of estuaries. Female black ducks lay an average of 9 eggs.


Latin: Anas rubripes

Average length: M 22", F 21"

Average weight: M 2.7 lbs., F 2.4 lbs.


American black ducks are similar to mallards in size, and resemble the female mallard in coloration, though the black duck's plumage is darker. The male and female black duck are similar in appearance, but the male's bill is yellow while the female's is a dull green. The head is slightly lighter brown than the dark brown body, and the speculum is iridescent violet-blue with predominantly black margins. In flight, the white underwings can be seen in contrast to the dark brown body.

American Black Duck Range Map

Food Habits

American black ducks dabble in shallow water to feed on plant material (e.g. seeds), small aquatic invertebrates, mollusks, and crustaceans in freshwater wetlands and coastal salt marshes.


Black duck populations declined steeply between the 1950s to 1980s, falling by more than 50 percent according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Reasons for this decline are unclear, but recent studies point to a variety of potential contributing factors, including overharvest, interactions with mallards, a decrease in the quality and quantity of nonbreeding and breeding habitat, and environmental contamination. While black duck numbers have generally stabilized since the late 2000s, recent estimates remain below the long-term average. 

Migration and Wintering

Black ducks are most common in the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways, with most distributed along the Atlantic coast from the Maritime Provinces to Florida. They are most abundant on coastal wetlands, ranging from the Maritime Provinces, Lake Erie, and the St. Lawrence River in Canada, to the mid-Atlantic coast in the United States. High concentrations are found wintering between Long Island and North Carolina. When away from the coast, black ducks use large river valleys like those of the Tennessee, Detroit, and Upper Illinois rivers.