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Canvasback

Aythya valisineria

Diving Ducks Family

Waterfowl Identification

 
Male Canvasback
male
Female Canvasback
female
Similar Waterfowl:
None
Description:
Male canvasbacks have a chestnut red head and neck, a black breast, grayish back, black rump, and blackish brown tail. The sides, flank, and belly are white while the wing coverts are grayish and vermiculated with black. The bill is blackish and the legs and feet are bluish-gray. The iris is bright red in the spring, but duller in the winter. Female canvasbacks have a light brown head and neck, grading into a darker brown chest and foreback. The sides, flanks, and back are grayish brown. The bill is blackish and the legs and feet are bluish-gray.
Typical Size:
The male and female average 21 inches in length and weigh 3 pounds. They have a wingspan of 33 inches.
Habitat:
Brackish estuarine bays and marshes with abundant submergent vegetation and invertebrates are ideal habitats for canvasbacks.
Breeding:
Canvasbacks breed in the prairie pothole region of North America. They prefer to nest over water on permanent prairie marshes surrounded by emergent vegetation, such as cattails and bulrushes, which provide protective cover. Other important breeding areas are the sub-arctic river deltas in Saskatchewan and the interior of Alaska. Female canvasbacks lay an average of 10 eggs.
Diet:
Canvasback dabble on aquatic plants in shallow water areas, especially rush seeds, pondweed seeds and leaves, and salt grass seeds. They also feed on animal food, especially aquatic insects and mollusks.
Migration:
Canvasbacks migrate through the Mississippi Flyway to wintering grounds in the mid-Atlantic United States and the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley, or the Pacific Flyway to wintering grounds along the coast of California. Historically, the Chesapeake Bay wintered the majority of canvasbacks, but with the recent loss of submerged aquatic vegetation in the bay, their range has shifted south towards the LMAV.
Flyway Patterns:
The canvasback is common to the Pacific and Mississippi flyways.
Flight Formation:
Irregular "V's" or lines. Strong swift flight with rapid and noisy wing beats. Their speeds reach 70 MPH.
Voice:
The male has a loud grunting COO or PEEP and the female has a QUACK.

Canvasback Flight and Plumage Characteristics

This guide will help you recognize canvasbacks on the wing - it emphasizes their fall and winter plumage patterns as well as size, shape, and flight characteristics. Migrating in lines and irregular V's, canvasbacks normally start late and their speed is the swiftest of all our ducks. When in feeding areas, compact flocks fly in indefinite formations and their wingbeats are rapid and noisy. Canvasback feeding behavior is dependent on the area. Sometimes they feed at night and spend the day grouped in open water, but in other areas they feed inshore mornings and evenings. Body size and head shape distinguish them from scaups and redheads. The drake has a loud grunting COO or PEEP and the hen has a QUACK.

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