Canvasback

Aythya valisineria
Range Map

One of the larger ducks in the diving duck group, the Canvasback breeds in western Canada, southeastern Alaska, and northwestern USA. These ducks spend very little time on land. They sleep while floating, their nests float on rafts of reeds, and they feed on the water, consuming plants and invertebrates from a few inches below the surface to as much as seven feet below. When surface feeding, they will sometimes tip like a dabbling duck.

Observers report a general decline in the population. Degradation of nesting habitat seems the most likely culprit, as prairie pothole wetlands get drained for agricultural development.

I’ve only met Canvasbacks a few times. Those meeting have been at their winter homes in southern California, southern Nevada, southern Arizona, and in the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico. I’m still looking forward to a spring or summer meeting on their breeding grounds.

Today’s science considers the Canvasback as monotypic (i.e. there are no subspecies).

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