My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

American Black Duck, Anas rubripes

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

American Black Duck, Anas rubripes

The American Black Duck is a large dabbling duck. American Black Ducks are similar to Mallards in size, and resemble the female Mallard in coloration, although the Black Duck’s plumage is darker. It is native to eastern North America and has shown reduction in numbers and increasing hybridization with the more common Mallard as that species has spread with man-made habitat changes.

They are similar to Mallards in size, and resemble the female Mallard in coloration, although the Black Duck’s plumage is darker. The male and female Black Duck are generally similar in appearance, but the male’s bill is yellow while the female’s is a dull green. The head is slightly lighter brown than the dark brown body, and the speculum are iridescent violet-blue with predominantly black margins. The Black Duck has orange legs and dark eyes. In flight, the white under wings can be seen in contrast to the dark brown body. The behavior and voice are the same as for the Mallard drake.

Their breeding habitat is alkaline marshes, acid bogs, lakes, ponds, rivers, marshes, brackish marshes, and the margins of estuaries and other aquatic environments in northern Saskatchewan, Manitoba, across Ontario and Quebec as well as the Atlantic Canadian Provinces, including the Great Lakes, and the Adirondacks in the United States. Female Black Ducks lay an average of 9 eggs.

Black Ducks interbreed regularly and extensively with Mallard ducks, to which they are closely related. Some authorities even consider the Black Duck to be a subspecies of the Mallard, not a separate species at all.

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.

On to my photos, and I have not cropped the mallards out so you can see the similarities and the size difference between the two species:

American Black ducks and mallard

American Black ducks and mallard

American Black ducks and mallard

American Black ducks and mallard

American Black duck and mallard

American Black duck and mallard

This is number 94 in my photo life list, only 256 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!



8 responses

  1. Very difficult to tell from a mallard, you’re right! I would have thought it would have mostly black plumage (from the name) like, say, the Cayuga. This nomenclature thing is tough to figure out!

    May 14, 2013 at 10:21 am

    • Yeah, I don’t know who named these species, but there are times it makes no sense at all. I think that the ones in my photos are actually hybrids, as there are very few purebred black ducks left from what I read. The plumage is correct for a black duck, but I think that the bills and feet show some mallard blood as well.

      May 14, 2013 at 12:30 pm

  2. You can say what you like but they don’t look very black to me.

    May 14, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    • I don’t name then, I just track them down and photograph them. 😉

      May 15, 2013 at 1:27 am

  3. The duck in that last shot sure has the mallard grin down.

    May 14, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    • I didn’t notice before, but it sure does!

      May 15, 2013 at 1:27 am

  4. I’ve only seen these in a distance and never close up. Amazing how much they look like a female mallard. But they’re smaller right?

    May 22, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    • Well, these may have been mallard/black duck hybrids. According to one source that I checked, there are very few pure blooded black ducks left. They’re about 25% larger than a mallard, and the shape of their head is different.

      May 23, 2013 at 2:27 am