The Canvasback Can Be Recognized By Its Long “Ski-jump” Profile

The Canvasback Can Be Recognized By Its Long “Ski-jump” Profile



His head really does have a “ski-jump” profile! Because of the shape of his head, it makes it very easy to identify this species of duck. Fairly large diving duck, the male has a beautiful chestnut head with a black bill and chest and white back. The female has a pale tan head and a grayish body.

They like lakes, salt bays and fresh marshes in the summer. When they migrate they’ll look for large lakes, then come winter they stay near the coast in estuaries and protected bays. Migrates late in the fall then early in the spring. They’ll fly in flocks in a V-formation, flying very very high.

The females build the nests and they alone incubate the eggs for 23-28 days. They lay between 7-12 eggs, though Redhead birds will often lay eggs in their nests, causing the Canvasback to lay fewer eggs. After only a few hours after hatching the young are led to open water and are able to feed themselves! Mom will stay with them for several more weeks, but leave before the fledge. Usually the young can fly 60-70 days after hatching.

They are the largest in the duck family and can fly swiftly. It will dive for its food, eating mostly plant material, such as the roots, leaves and seeds of aquatic plants. On occasion it has been known to eat some small fish and insects. In shallow water it will stir up the bottom with its feet, then up-end (head down in the water, tail up toward the sky) to feed. 

Unfortunately due to the loss of nesting habitat the Canvasback population has been declining for some years. I’ve seen this bird a few times, but usually only one here and one there, never too many together and only one or two a year…

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