Duck o’ the Week

Evolutionist John Avise has again helped promote our Duck Learning by providing photos of a North American duck species. Guess the species, and then go below the fold to see the answer as well as some duck facts and a range map of the species.  His captions are indented.

Hen swimming:

Hen standing:

Hen in flight:


Drake in flight:




Click “read more” to get the ID, duck facts, and a range map.

ID: Canvasback (Aythya valisineria)

This large regal duck is rather closely related to the Redhead (Aythya americana; see last Sunday’s post), but is easily distinguished by its sloping (not rounded) forehead and bill, which together are reminiscent of a long ski slope.  Its Latin species name (valisineria) comes from the Latin generic name of one of its favorite foods: wild celery.  Other items on this duck’s menu include seeds, snails, roots, rhizomes, and insect larvae that it gleans underwater either by dabbling or surface-diving. Like its cousin the Redhead, Canvasbacks typically nest on the shores of marshy pothole lakes  but then winter in flocks on large sheltered bays. The drake has whitish upperparts that I supposehave been deemed to resemble a sheet of white canvas.

A range map from the Cornell bird site:



  1. Jeannie Hess
    Posted August 2, 2020 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    One Christmas my brother carved me a Santa holding a canvasback duck. And if that wasn’t enough, he drove me to an inlet at a nearby town where hundreds of canvasbacks were floating on swells close to the dock. It was thrilling.

  2. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 2, 2020 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    A memorable Duck ‘O The Week Duet!

  3. Roger Lambert
    Posted August 2, 2020 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    I guess the “canvasback” is a more efficient and proper moniker than my guess: The “Chocolate-dipped Dulce de Leche”.

  4. Posted August 2, 2020 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Interesting range map. They will fly a long way (Central Alaska!) to breed.

    • Posted August 2, 2020 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      I wonder if the northernmost breeders travel to the northernmost winter range, & the southernmost to the southernmost breeding range? Where there are ducks all year, are they the same ducks or are they as I suggest above, ducks that will winter further south or breed further north?

      Why not stay all year in the one spot, breed & winter there if there is food & the climate suits? I can see that might be a speciation point as I think is happening with some migratory birds in the UK where they are feeding now from bird tables in the winter (black caps?) so do not all migrate…??? 🤔

  5. Posted August 2, 2020 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Very good! Thank you for sharing the pictures and information.

  6. Derek Freyberg
    Posted August 2, 2020 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    My Sunday zoological education: thanks to John Avise and our host!

  7. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted August 2, 2020 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I can’t make much of the map, are the captions non-breeding and migration (blue and yellow in the map) not mixed up? If so, the map would make more sense.
    Very nice photos though.

    • john
      Posted August 2, 2020 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

      I think the map is correct as shown; these ducks winter (non-breeding) in the southern part of the continent, nest in more northern regions, and migrate in-between.

  8. Nicolaas Stempels
    Posted August 2, 2020 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    I think vallisneria refers to eelgrass aka tape grass. A popular fresh water aquarium plant.
    I never knew the name ‘wild celery’ as used for Apium sp, Angelica sp or lovage, was also used for Vallisneria. And I checked, your info definitely is correct. Thank you for some minor, but new, piece of information.

  9. ploubere
    Posted August 2, 2020 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    I finally got one right.

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