American Black Duck

While living out in Boston, I would usually spend at least one afternoon a month just wandering through the North End. One of the things I really enjoyed doing–walking along the harbor.

I enjoyed walking along the harbor (though I have yet to do the full harbor walk–which is like ~50 miles; something to go back and try to do over a couple of days); not only because I was outdoors–but I also was able to spot birds I knew that I’d only spot in Oklahoma during the winter (namely the cormorants & gulls).

So on one of the afternoon walks, I managed to get pictures of a couple of male American black ducks.

Male American black duck swimming in the Boston harbor

These are ducks that look striking like immature or female mallards. The only distinction between the male and female American black duck: the female is a little paler.

American black ducks swimming in Boston Harbor

These ducks aren’t really ‘black’ but are more of a dark brown in color, with a pale gray-brown head and a yellow-green beak.

Their secondary feathers are a bright purple–but unless they’re in flight or on land–you don’t see them.

The traditional range of the American black duck is the eastern portion of the United States and Canada.

American Black Duck Migration Map. Map (c) Birds of the World

Their breeding rounds are basically eastern Canada, and the northern parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Maine. They can be found year-round in the lower part of Michigan, and most of the northeast. Their winter grounds are the southeastern part of the United States stretching from mid-Wisconsin southwards to the Gulf of Mexico.

They can also be spotted along the Missouri River up into Nebraska. During the fall migration and winter period, they can occasionally be spotted on the west coast of North America, and in Asia and Europe.

In terms of where to spot them: during the summer they can be spotted on beaver ponds, brooks, shallow lakes, bogs, swamps, and salt-marshes. I managed to spot these two out on the harbor.

The diet of the American black duck can vary depending on the season.

During the breeding season/summer both the adults and ducklings will eat a diet that is high in protein. They will eat aquatic insects, crustaceans, and mollusks, with the addition of small fish.

They will also eat plant material consisting of seeds, roots, tubers, stems and leaves of various plants.

American black ducks foraging in Boston Harbor

While they’re considered a ‘dabbling duck’ (where they submerge their heads when foraging), they can also dive in deeper waters for tubers and other foods (such as crustaceans and small fish).

During the winter, they will mainly feed on plant material if they’re in a freshwater location; if they’re in a marine habitat, they will also eat mussels, zooplankton, and small fish.

Two odd little tidbits:

There was a case noted of a female American black duck being banded in New Brunswick Canada and then later be spotted in France.

Fossils of American black ducks have been found in Florida and Georgia, dating back at least 11,000 years (to the Pleistocene period)

Photography goal(s) include getting a picture of a female with duckling, one (or more) in flight (to be able to get the purple secondary feathers), and possibly a picture of a pair (or more) on a beaver pond.