Adult male. Photo: Fyn Kynd/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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
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.

Download Our Bird Guide App

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 Will Reshape the Range of the American Black Duck

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate threats facing the American Black Duck

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.

Explore Similar Birds