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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

American Black Duck -- Anas rubripes
(formerly Black Duck)

RANGE: Breeds from northern Saskatchewan to Labrador and Newfoundland south to northern South Dakota, northern Illinois, central West Virginia, and on the Atlantic Coast to North Carolina. Winters from southeastern Minnesota and central Wisconsin to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia south to southern Texas, the Gulf Coast and south-central Florida. Winters as far north as open water and food are available.

STATUS: Common, but the population is declining.

HABITAT: Inhabits a wide variety of wetland habitats along the coast and in woodlands, including open boreal forests and mixed hardwoods; sometimes is found in stubble fields or berry barrens. Generally is extremely adaptable as long as there is some source of water. Prefers to winter on brackish marshes bordering bays, estuaries, and agricultural lands but may also be found on lakes, reservoirs, rivers, freshwater marshes, and old rice fields.

NEST: Generally nests in a hollow on dry, slightly elevated ground in wooded areas, well-concealed in thickets, briars, shrubs or grasses, usually near (but possibly a mile or more from) water. Occasionally uses old crow or hawk nests and natural or excavated cavities in trees or tops of rotted stumps.

FOOD: Forages by dabbling in shallow water, and by gleaning and grazing in fields. Has a diet that varies widely, depending on habitat. In fresh and brackish areas eats mostly plants; in marine environments eats mostly animals. Consumes primarily blue mussels, submerged aquatic plants, waste grains, acorns, seeds of marsh plants, crustaceans, earthworms, amphibians, and fishes.

REFERENCES: Bellrose 1976, Benson 1968, Coulter and Mendall 1968, DeGraff et al. 1980, Johnsgard 1975b, Palmer 1976a.

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