Photo: Bonnie Shulman/Flickr Creative Commons

American Black Duck

Anas rubripes

A close relative of the Mallard, the Black Duck is better adapted to wooded country. With the clearing of forest, it has steadily lost ground to spreading populations of Mallards. In its stronghold along the Atlantic Coast it is a hardy bird, wintering farther north than most dabbling ducks. It is among the few dabblers to prosper in tidewater areas; pairs and small parties of Black Ducks are often seen flying over the salt marsh, their white wing linings flashing in bright contrast to their dark bodies.
Conservation status Still abundant locally, but has declined drastically in interior parts of range. Clearing of forest has favored invasion by Mallards, which hybridize extensively with Black Ducks, leading to genetic "swamping" of population.
Family Ducks and Geese
Habitat Marshes, bays, estuaries, ponds, rivers, lakes. Wide variety of aquatic habitats; found on lakes in northern forest and in salt marsh more often than most dabblers. Majority in winter in coastal estuaries and tidal marshes, lesser numbers on inland lakes, tree-lined ponds, wooded swamps.
A close relative of the Mallard, the Black Duck is better adapted to wooded country. With the clearing of forest, it has steadily lost ground to spreading populations of Mallards. In its stronghold along the Atlantic Coast it is a hardy bird, wintering farther north than most dabbling ducks. It is among the few dabblers to prosper in tidewater areas; pairs and small parties of Black Ducks are often seen flying over the salt marsh, their white wing linings flashing in bright contrast to their dark bodies.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult female
  • duckling
  • adult male
Feeding Behavior

feeds in water by dabbling, up-ending, rarely by diving; feeds on land by grazing, plucking seeds, grubbing for roots.


Eggs

7-11, sometimes 6-12, rarely 4-17. Creamy white to greenish buff. Incubation by female only, 23-33 days, typically 26-29. Young: all eggs typically hatch in space of a few hours. Female leads young to water, often after dark. Ducklings find their own food. Young fledge at age of about 2 months, and are abandoned by female about that time.


Young

all eggs typically hatch in space of a few hours. Female leads young to water, often after dark. Ducklings find their own food. Young fledge at age of about 2 months, and are abandoned by female about that time.

Diet

omnivorous. Diet varies with location and season. On fresh water, feeds mainly on plant material, including seeds, leaves, roots, berries. Seeds of various grasses, pondweeds, sedges, and others often a major part of diet. In tidal zones may feed mainly on mussels, clams, snails, small crustaceans, aquatic arthropods. Young ducklings eat many insects.


Nesting

Older birds may form pairs by early fall and remain together until following summer. Nest site variable; usually near water, as on banks or small islands, but can be up to a mile distant. Generally on ground among clumps of dense vegetation, sometimes in raised situation as on top of stump, in large tree cavity, on duck blind in water. Typical ground nest (built by female) is a shallow depression with plant material added, lined with down.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Those breeding in northern interior may migrate long distances, but coastal and southerly birds may move only short distances. Fall migration is often late in season, as waters freeze or food supply is depleted. Much of migration apparently occurs at night.

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Migration

Those breeding in northern interior may migrate long distances, but coastal and southerly birds may move only short distances. Fall migration is often late in season, as waters freeze or food supply is depleted. Much of migration apparently occurs at night.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Typical duck quack.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Duck-like Birds Surface Feeding Ducks

American Black Duck

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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