The canvasback is one of the largest and heaviest ducks in North America, and this diving duck is a bold visitor to large lakes and bays. Easily distinguished by its sloping profile, this duck is a great one to add to your life list.
Canvasback, Canvasback Duck
- Bill: Black, long, straight slope from forehead
- Size: 20-24 inches long with 32-inch wingspan, flat forehead
- Colors: Black, white, gray, brown, rust
- Markings: Dimorphic species. Males have a rust-brown head and neck, black breast and bold white wings, flanks and back. The tail and undertail coverts are black. Male birds also have red eyes. Females have a lighter brown or rusty head, neck and chest with speckled gray wings, flanks and back. Females’ eyes are dark and show a pale ring, and their tail and undertail coverts are brown. Both genders have dark legs.
Aquatic plants, mollusks
Habitat and Migration:
Canvasbacks prefer marshes and large open bodies of water such as lakes, ponds and bays. Their summer range is throughout the northern central United States, including Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and the Dakotas, as well as western Minnesota and the northern portions of Nevada, Utah and Colorado. Summer canvasback ranges extend throughout central Canada to the southern half of Alaska as well. In winter, these birds migrate to the Pacific coast, southern parts of the United States and Mexico.
Like most ducks, canvasbacks are not particularly vocal. Males will make a soft coo during courtship displays and when coaxing mates, and females have a rough “kraaaaw-kraaaaw-kraaaaw” call.
Canvasback ducks are a shy, solitary species, though they may form mixed flocks with other ducks. They prefer large bodies of water and are likely to stay away from the shoreline.
These ducks are monogamous and a mated pair will create one brood of 5-12 eggs each year. The female incubates the eggs for 24-28 days, and the precocial young leave the nest rapidly to follow their mother and forage for food for 55-60 days until their first flight. Males have few parental responsibilities.
Because they are shy birds and prefer large bodies of water, canvasbacks are not common backyard birds. Birders are more likely to spot these birds if they visit regional bodies of water at the appropriate times of year.
- Redhead (Aythya americana)
- Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)