ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

The Life of the American Black Duck

Updated on October 30, 2012
American Black duck - Mallard cross
American Black duck - Mallard cross | Source

A Wonder of Nature

The darkest dabbling duck on the water looks nearly all black at a distance. Some claim that it is the same size as a Mallard, but having seen and worked with these birds closely, it is larger and much more aggressive. During the 1930’s and ‘40’s, this was the most abundant duck in both the eastern and central portion of North America. It was also the most hunted without any real decline in numbers. However, today the tables have turned, and hunting and displacement by the Mallard ranks has taken a definite toll on it.

Look at those stellar colors!
Look at those stellar colors! | Source

Hybridization

The black duck and the Mallard have hybridized greatly over the years to create a colorful, beautiful and very hardy duck. There once was a claim that the black duck is a melanistic(surplus of dark pigment in its plumage) Mallard. It was also indicated that this coloration was due to the bird’s dark forest habitat. It is quite true that the two interbreed somewhat often, but I don’t believe that the dark color will be phased out any time soon. Genetically, darker and larger will overcome lighter and smaller.

Source

Pairing and Courtship

Black ducks pair during the winter, and when their instinct dictates, they migrate northward in pairs. In no way does pairing affect their courtship, which still must be adhered to in the natural ways of life. Courtship is a combination of durability, as well as physical prowess. Each member of the pair will try to outfly one another. These ducks will fly up and down a pond or lake, land in the water, and just as quickly resume flight once again. Eventually, the female will decide if the male is worthy, then they will settle down on the water, where she will accept his offerings.

Source

Nesting and the Young

The nest is usually built on the ground, but upon occasion they will nest in trees. The nest is never far from water, carefully hidden under low, brushy growth or well within marsh grass. Incubation is about 27 days, performed solely by the female. The male usually departs as soon as breeding ends. The female will cover her eggs with nesting material and down when she has the need to feed.

The young will remain in the nest for a couple of hours to dry, then they are upon the water. The ducklings resemble the Mallard, except the black duckling has a mottled breast. Like most ducks, mother will use the feigned injury tactic if danger is near. At the first alarm from her, the ducklings will scatter in and under any nearby debris or vegetation in the vicinity.

Source

Habits

The black duck is the wariest of all ducks. It will rarely drop to the water without first circling and observing the terrain below it. During the winter, this duck often feeds under the cover of darkness. During daylight hours, it will stay in open water, especially during hunting season. Extensive freezing can reverse this, as they just cannot get enough food. Usually by then, hunting season is over.

Source

Feeding and Dangers

The black duck prefers animal life more than the Mallard, about 25 to 35 percent of total food intake. During nesting season, dangers include floods, drought, and marsh fires. Heavy icing can reduce the availability of food and cause starvation. Opossums, skunks, raccoons, and crows can eat the eggs. Fish and snapping turtles will eat the young. Eagles, hawks and owls eat ducks when available. Botulism will affect these ducks when there isn’t enough water where they feed, as it grows when water renewal is not sufficient. Accidents also take their tolls, as well as hunting, as they are reportedly very good table fare.

Source
Source
Source

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hakan, is it possibly a male Bufflehead? They are diving ducks.

    • profile image

      Hakan 2 years ago

      We have a large duck just arrived on our canal here in Wales with a very neat and tidy crown' of white faeehtrs on the back of its head. It might be the result of a wound but it looks too neat. Otherwise it displays some features of a mallard and, I think, a ruddy duck. It is quite unlike anything else we have seen or found in a book. We did have a pair of perfectly black ducks here for a couple of years but they have gone

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 2 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Cassio, thanks for the kind words, they are always appreciated.

    • profile image

      Cassio 2 years ago

      Val I think the Hat are great I have been knitting Small bieaens for the Northern Hospital for new borns, also Knitting Bigger Beanies all sizes for S,E.S bright Orange Sorry to say my are only ver PLAIN nothing as good as yourscongratulations for the good job

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Shanti! Yes, they are very similar. The hybrid black duck/mallard is much more aggressive than the cayuga could ever be.

    • Shanti Perez profile image

      Shanti Perez 4 years ago from Spokane, Washington, U.S.A.

      This American black duck/mallard hybrid reminds me very much of a Cayuga drake with a yellow bill. Thanks for sharing this article.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      These ducks are permanent residents in your area. Maybe it's because I look at birds so much, an unusual one will just jump out at me. They are very distinctive BUT many will look like a mallard. They are VERY aggressive, though, and will push mallards and other ducks around.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Deb, great hub. I don't think I seen an American Black Duck unless I mistook one for a Mallard. They are beautiful, I'll have to ask around and see if they are in my area here in western Massachusetts.

      Really enjoyed learning about this duck, great job.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks again, Eddy, for your support. What would this world be like without animals? I would hate to think of that outcome.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 4 years ago from Wales

      Being a wildlife/animal lover this great hub of yours is a treat.

      I vote up and share onto my Fb page.

      Eddy.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      So true, shiningirisheyes. I wish that none of our animals had to become extinct. We must all learn to care for our planet, as well as its inhabitants!

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      I am relieved to know that. Our wildlife take enough hits as well as so many stunning species lost to extinction.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, shiningirisheyes. These ducks are not declining that much. They will likely overcome, as they are darker and larger than the Mallard, so they will make up for it. They are on the eastern seaboard more than in my area. They used to be more common in the the central part of the U.S.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Hey, Gloshei, thanks so much for the visit and the kind words. I have a photo that I posted where there is purple-blue in the mix with the green, too.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Yes, James, I've seen different crosses of other species with Mallards, too. You never know what will come out of the mix.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Martin, I got to know some of them when I was volunteering at Tri-State Bird Rescue. I met a lot of birds that I never had knowledge about. I still continue to learn more.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Jim. There are so many breeds of ducks out there. Pintails have shown up, but are in the middle of the lake. I hope they come closer.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      So very true, Highland Terrier. Nature isn't even easy for nature. Humanity can have it so much better, if they ever choose to do so as a species.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Dahlia! I appreciate your visit and well-wishes.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Joyce. I consider them very striking.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Kris--The females are VERY similar to the Mallard. The female Mallard has a white tail, has no contrast between her head and body, a yellow-orange bill with black mottling, and the blue speculum has white before and after it.

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Ducks Unlimited doesn't want hunters to hunt ducks to death, so that species are endangered. Whether we like it or not, there will always be hunting. DU also donates money to wildlife habitat. They aren't advocates of eradicating ducks. I have a story that I wrote just for you. I will publish it momentarily. It is called "The Twentieth Hour."

    • aviannovice profile image
      Author

      Deb Hirt 4 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Thanks, Billy. I loved the way that duck looked. He was gorgeous. I hope that I see more of them.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Wow - I thought my lineage (Irish) was pushing it when removing the dinner plate at the age of eighteen. These little guys are allowed only hours before they are encouraged out of the nest.

      If the numbers are steadily declining, shouldn't the label of protected and endangered wild life be implemented?

      Always enjoy these wildlife hubs. It reminds me of one of my favorite childhood shows "The Wild Kingdom." Voting up

    • Gloshei profile image

      Gloria 4 years ago from France

      What a lovely duck and the colours are so vibrant, I see in one photo the bright greeny hint through the feathers, almost iridescent in colour. He certainly is a hardy little thing and quite surprised about there mating habits with the mallard.

      Thanks for an interesting read and the pictures you chose are great. Voted up & interesting

    • JKenny profile image

      James Kenny 4 years ago from Birmingham, England

      Interesting hub Deb. I'd never heard of the American black duck before, and if I saw one at first glance, I would have just called it an unusual looking mallard. Mallards are notorious for interbreeding with other ducks here. I've personally seen Mallard/Pintail hybrids and also Mallard/Gadwall hybrids. Thanks for sharing.

    • Mhatter99 profile image

      Martin Kloess 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this. First I've heard or seen of this duck.

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 4 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      Great Hub about a duck I never heard of, and as usual, the photos are perfect!

    • Highland Terrier profile image

      Highland Terrier 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Very nice hub again . very informative. It is very sad that so many things in nature find it so very hard to exist.

      It really is savage when all is said and done, nature that is.

    • Dahlia Flower profile image

      Dahlia Flower 4 years ago from Canada

      Beautiful hub, aviannovice. Great information. Sharing and voting up.

    • writer20 profile image

      Joyce Haragsim 4 years ago from Southern Nevada

      Very interesting, I have never seen or heard about a black duck. It does look lovely.

      Voted up beautiful and interesting, Joyce.

    • KrisL profile image

      KrisL 4 years ago from S. Florida

      Clicked on "beautiful" and "interesting" to account for both the pictures and the text. I have seen one these ducks, maybe one with more mallared in it, and not been quite sure what it was?

      What do the black or hybrid females look like, compared to mallard?

    • Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

      Pamela Kinnaird W 4 years ago from Maui and Arizona

      I really loved reading all of this information. Thank you. Actually, I have several of my duck and other bird books out this morning -- planning on writing some bird hubs but I'm especially in awe of the ducks and geese this week as they lift up and take flight from this area of Saskatchewan I'm in for most of the winter.

      Do you have any knowledge and understanding of the reasons Ducks Unlimited and such organizations justify their hunting of ducks? It just boggles my mind, so I'm going to try to open my mind and read up on it. But when these hundreds and hundreds of geese or ducks lift up from the sanctuary here and begin their flight southward, it's almost heart-stopping. And the geese start honking....and you just know every little soul realizes they might not make it on their long journey.

      Loved this hub and the feelings it evokes. Voting up, useful, interesting, beautiful and Sharing.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Beautiful coloring on the neck and head....a great read. Nice to know that women decide which man is worthy, just like with us humans. :)

      Loved it Deb!

    Click to Rate This Article