Large dabbling duck 19” to 25” long with an average wingspan of 36”. Drakes and hens both have a dark brown body that looks black from a distance; the head is a lighter, chocolate brown with a drab greenish bill. The speculum (leading edge of the wing) is purplish-red and the undersides of the wings are white.
Tidal wetlands, rivers and inlets.
Black ducks that enter the Atlantic Flyway typically breed in central and eastern Canada and the northeastern U.S. They migrate to the Chesapeake and points south in autumn, returning in spring—although a few are present in parts of the Bay virtually year-round.
Like mallards, drakes make a “kekking” sound while hens have a loud quack. Listen to a sample (Requires RealPlayer)
Some black duck fanciers insist that these wary ducks can smell a human from a half mile away. More certain, unfortunately, is that their populations have declined significantly due to destruction of nesting habitat by housing and industrial development. In addition, because this species interbreeds readily with mallards, today there are relatively few “purebred” American black ducks.
The decoy pictured is from the collection of the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art and was photographed by Middleton Evans. Waterfowl sounds are courtesy of the Macaulay Lab of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.