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American Black Duck
American Black Duck
Photos © Julia Flanagan

American Black Duck
Anas rubripes

The American Black Duck is a large dabbling duck.

The adult male has a yellow bill, a dark body, lighter head and neck, orange legs and dark eyes. The adult female has a similar appearance. Both sexes have a shiny purple-blue wing patch, which is not bordered with white as with the Mallard. The behavior and voice are the same as for Mallard Drake.

Their breeding habitat is lakes, ponds, rivers, marshes and other aquatic environments in eastern Canada including the Great Lakes, and the Adirondacks.  Black Ducks interbreed regularly and extensively with Mallard ducks to which they are closely related.

This species is partially migratory and many winter in the east-central United States, especially coastal areas.  Some remain year-round in the Great Lakes region.

These birds feed by dabbling in shallow water, and grazing on land. They mainly eat plants, but also some mollusks and aquatic insects. The eggs are a greenish buff color. They lay from 6-14 eggs that hatch in an average of 30 days.

The Black Duck has long been valued as a game bird, being quite wary and fast on the wing. Although this is a species of least concern, it is slowly declining due to overhunting and habitat destruction.

Some conservationists consider the hybridization and competition with the Mallard an additional source of concern. It should be noted that the hybridization itself is not the major problem as natural selection will see to that the best-adapted individuals still have the most offspring.

However, the reduced viability of female hybrids may cause many broods to fail in the long run as the offspring die before reproducing themselves. While this is not a problem in the plentiful mallard, it will place an additional strain on the American Black Duck's population.