Canvasback is a medium-sized duck with an elegant pattern of
black, russet, and white. Males in breeding plumage have white-to-light-gray
bodies, black undertail coverts and breasts, and deep rufous
heads with red eyes. Adult males in non-breeding plumage have
slightly darker bodies, but look similar. Female Canvasbacks
are an overall grayish-brown in color, with a slightly browner
head and neck. Juveniles look similar to females, but with less
distinction between the head, neck, and body color. All ages
and plumages have long, gently sloping black bills that give
them a distinctive profile. This profile is one of the best ways
to distinguish between the Canvasback and the similar-looking
Redhead. Canvasbacks are also larger than Redheads, with long,
flattish heads, and much whiter body coloration. Males can also
be differentiated by their red eyes (male Redheads have yellow
eyes) and bill color (black in Canvasbacks, blue with a black
tip in Redheads).
breed in shallow prairie lakes and ponds with marshy shorelines,
especially those with bulrush. They typically inhabit large lakes
during migration. In winter they frequent sheltered lakes, saltwater
bays, and estuaries. They also use sewage lagoons.
winter Canvasbacks gather in large flocks, often mixed with scaups.
As divers, Canvasbacks usually find food under water but will
also feed at the surface. Canvasbacks, like most other North
American ducks, are seasonally monogamous. Most pairs form at
stopover points during spring migration.
bases and roots of aquatic plants, as well as some leaves and
seeds, make up the majority of the Canvasback's diet. Wild celery
is particularly favored. Mollusks, aquatic insects, and some
small fish are also eaten, especially by nesting females and
nest, built by the female, is situated in dense emergent vegetation
above shallow water, and sometimes on dry ground. It is a bulky
bowl of vegetation lined with down. The female lays and incubates
8 to 10 eggs for 24 to 29 days. Several hours after the young
hatch, the female leads them to open water where they feed themselves.
They are tended by the female for several weeks. The male leaves
during incubation, and the female leaves several weeks after
the young hatch. The ducklings are left to fend for themselves
until they can fly, at about 60 to 70 days.
migrate late in fall and early in spring. Birds migrate in flocks,
in a V-formation. Migration is relatively quick in the spring,
but more drawn out in fall, lasting from late August to November.
numbers vary considerably from year to year, the overall trend
is one of long-term decline, mostly due to habitat loss. In fact,
hunting seasons were closed in the Atlantic Flyway in the mid-1990s
to allow recovery of very low population levels. In order to
reverse this trend, the loss and degradation of wetlands needs
to be arrested. The breeding range in Washington, which is at
the southern edge of the North American breeding range, appears
to be shrinking, and some areas that look like suitable habitat
do not have nesting Canvasbacks. In these areas, Redheads may