Among Canada’s Indigenous Peoples, ducks were one of the most commonly eaten and highly desired birds. In addition to its meat, ducks were hunted for their fat, feathers and bones.
Ducks were eaten spring through fall by many cultures from east to west including upper Tanana, Inuvialuit, Dogrib, Inuit and Beothuk, among many others [32-37].
Cultures reported to have hunted ducks in spring include the Katzie, Kutchin (Gwich’in) (Vanta Kutchin and Chandalar Kutchin), Hare (Sahtu), Naskapi (Innu), Montagnais (Innu) of the St. Lawrence and Labrador Inuit [19, 27, 38-42, 44]. Ducks are reported to have been hunted in summer by Canadian Inuit, with Eskimo Point (now referred to as Arviat) a common duck hunting ground [19, 46, 47]. The James Bay Cree of Fort George are also reported to have hunted ducks in June and July ; Nuxalk hunted fall/early winter [76, 77].
Many cultures hunted ducks during spring and summer molting seasons, when the birds were temporarily unable to fly [27, 48, 49]. Upper Kutenai (Kootenai) chased ducks by canoe until they tired, at which point hunters would seize them by hand . Eyak of the Copper River Delta in Alaska hunted molting ducks in August, using clubs or sharp, pointed arrows. The entire village would help to drive the molting birds. They would force the flock in the river towards a narrowing, where the birds were forced onto shore, where hunters would kill the birds by wringing the necks. These drives were often carried out in the morning or evening [51, 54]. Just before young ducks could fly, Shuswap hunters would shout at them and scare them towards the edge of a lake, where they were easily taken . Similarly, the Shoshone drove ducks towards hunters, waiting on land. The birds were killed by wringing the necks, or they were beaten with sticks . Central Inuit also hunted ducks during molting season. The birds could be killed with sticks on land. Alternatively, the ducks were followed by kayak. The birds would dive as the boat approached, and if too frightened to resurface, the ducks would drown. In spring and fall, ducks were also abundant for Central Inuit .
Spring and fall duck migration seasons were fruitful for duck hunters, due to the quantity of ducks flying low over a known location. Cultures reported to have taken advantage of migration seasons include the Coast Salish, Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka'wakw), Haida, Tlingit, Tahltan, Yukon cultures, Han, Inuit, Chipewyan of Stony Rapids, Southeastern Ojibwa (Anishinabek), Potawatomi (Anishinabek), Mistissini Cree and Huron, among others [27, 43, 57-69]. The Peel River Kutchin welcomed duck migration in spring when food reserves were low . Cultures including the Haida, Stalo, Chilcotin, Hare, Cree/Chipewyan/Metis of Wood Buffalo National Park and James Bay Cree of Fort George enjoyed eating ducks hunted during the fall migration because birds were well-fed and fat [44, 54, 56, 71-75]. In September, Montagnais men of Lake Melville in Labrador hunted for ducklings, a valued delicacy .
While men were usually the primary hunters, young women would accompany their husbands on duck hunts. The men would kill the birds, and on returning home the women would prepare the birds for cooking and/or storing [82, 106, 110].
Duck hunters employed a variety of methods in the hunt. Weapons used were bows and arrows, shotguns, bird darts, spears, bolas, slings and bare hands; techniques included shouting to confuse or frighten the ducks, decoys or calls to lure the ducks; trapping included night netting with fire/torches, daytime netting and snares.
Hunters often used bows and arrows on passing flocks, with specially made duck hunting arrows. Cultures reported to use bow and arrow include People of Port Simpson (Tsimshian), Katzie, Inuit, Eyak, Inuvialuit, Huron [19, 47, 51, 69, 78, 79, 83]. Coast Salish would fashion their duck arrows to float or skip across the water for easy retrieval . The Nuxalk also designed special bird arrows for hunting ducks .Tahltan and Tanaina used blunt arrows . Yukon cultures shot ducks with bunting arrows . The Hare and Tlingit often made trips to the lake to shoot ducks with arrows from their canoes [44, 80, 81]. The Abitibi used small bows and short arrows that were headed with bone .
Some cultures found shotguns more effective, and used them when they became available [85, 86]. The Nootka (Nuu-chah-nulth), Chipewyan, and People of Port Simpson used shotguns [79, 87, 88]. Rappahannock hunters would go out an hour before sunrise to lay feed along the bank. This trail would lead flocks of ducks toward a blind, where the hunter was waiting. If he used an arrow, he would obtain one duck, but if he used a shotgun, he would obtain many .
Bird darts with throwing boards or throwing sticks were used by some northern cultures, including Inuit [47, 69, 92]. The darts often had projectile points and prongs to increase the chance of striking the mark.
At Puget Sound, Coast Salish made duck spears with barbs of elk antler. These were thrown in an underhand motion toward the birds. Once a bird was wounded, the hunter could easily wring its neck [99-101]. Ducks were likewise killed with spears by Huron  and multi-pronged spears by Micmac (Mi'kmaq) .
Also used was the bola, a weapon consisting of heavy balls made of walrus ivory, bone or antler; each ball was attached to a string of braided sinew, and the ends of the cords are tied together. Sometimes a handle of folded wing feathers was attached. The hunter would hold the weight in his left hand and straighten the strings. Then, spinning the weapon above his head, he would launch the bola towards an oncoming flock. When a bird was struck, the bola would wrap around and bring it to the ground; this method could result in obtaining more than one bird at a time. Hunters would hide and wait for the flocks [19, 47, 48, 90]. Barrow Inupiat men, women and children would carry bolas at all times during migration seasons [48, 90]. The Tanaina, among others, would hunt ducks with bolas during spring and fall migrations. [27, 47].
The Coast Salish and Mackenzie Delta Inuvialuit hunted duck with slings . The Coast Salish slings consisted of a hide pocket with a line at each end. Men and boys would stand on the shore launching rocks at ducks. Round rocks were known to fly straighter then flat ones . The Southern Okanagan would wade through the swamp to throw rocks at stray ducks. Sometimes whole flocks were circled by hunting groups .
The Stalo, Sechelt, Squamish and Gulf of Georgia Salish have told of “loud shouts” being used to stun and bring down low-flying ducks . Inuit are reported to have employed this method as well. They would go out on foggy days to hide and wait for flocks. The hunters would jump and shout, which would startle the ducks and they would fall to the ground because their bodies would be heavy from water and frost. The birds could then be grabbed by hand. Some Inuit erected posts to confuse the ducks. As a flock of low-flying ducks approached, the hunters would yell from their hiding places. The frightened ducks would fly in confused fashion, and as they tried to avoid the posts, the flock would be channeled towards waiting hunters, who would shoot them down [90, 91].
Duck decoys and duck calls were used by some cultures to lure the birds. The Abitibi would often make duck decoys of cedar wood, blackened with fire. The decoy’s head was made of a knot, attached to the body with spruce gum. When the ducks arrived, they were in easy range for the arrows . Mistissini Cree used decoys built of branches with feathers and a bill. The decoys would lead the birds towards blinds, where hunters hid on shore or in canoes [59-62]. Northern cultures would make decoys with dead female ducks tied to nets in shallow water: the ducks would approach and become entangled in the net . April to June was a period of scarcity for Montagnais of Lake Melville, Labrador. The hunters would anxiously launch their canoes in the water to search for ducks, a highly prized food. Blinds of canvas or spruce bough were used to hide the canoes. The men would lure the birds with duck calls, and when the flocks approached, they were shot in abundance . Similarly, the Ojibway of Michigan lured ducks with decoys or by imitating their calls. Many birds were found near the Great Lakes .
Night duck hunting was a common method that used fires and torches to frighten and confuse the ducks, and nets to then trap them. The Coast Salish and Squamish hung a mat behind a fire to hide the hunter. The birds would panic and try to hide in the boat’s shadow, where the hunters would grab the ducks with their hands [65, 95]. Carrier used nets along the water . The Nootka of Kyuquot hunted ducks by pit-lamping, traditionally called “light in the water.” Two men in a canoe would move slowly upstream until they found a flock of ducks on the ground. The hunter at the back of the canoe would light a fire to blind the ducks and the hunter at the front would throw a net over them, dragging them in before they fled. The birds would be pulled out one by one and tossed to the hunter at the back . At the end of herring season, Northern and Central Nootka men would go out in their canoes with torches and arrows. Stormy nights were best, because the ducks were easily netted in the chaos. If the weather was calm and the moonlight could reveal the hunters, they would hide behind blinds of branches . The Nuxalk and Tlingit also caught ducks by night-netting, and killed them by wringing the necks [7, 80]. The Micmac similarly hunted ducks with torches or flares. As the birds ventured behind the shade of a mat or brushwood blind, hunters would kill them with multi-pronged spears .
Many carried out duck hunting from the water in daylight using canoes, nets and snares. Canoes were often covered with blinds to be hidden from sight. The upper Stalo hunted ducks this way using arrows, nets, snares, clubs and spears . The Nuxalk used arrows and snares that were left floating above salmon eggs; snare loops were held open with whale baleen or quills. When a duck reached for the eggs, its head would get caught in the noose. Pieces of bone were also baited and attached to ropes or poles that floated on the water . The Tlingit used baited gorges with lines that stretched across a stream. Weighted snares were also set in the shallow waters of marshes and lakes by Tlingit and Tahltan [43, 54]. Central Inuit used whalebone nooses to trap swimming and diving ducks. They would fasten the snares to a long line that was used to pull the ducks ashore [19, 48, 55]. Snares were sometimes set on top of nests [19, 55]. In Western Greenland, nets were stretched horizontally across the water to trap the ducks as they surfaced for air .
Aerial nets were also used. The Kutenai would trap ducks in the morning, after the birds were heavy from eating. The Coast Salish hunted at dawn, dusk, or night, as well as in hazy and foggy weather: these conditions helped camouflage the trap. Two men would scare the flock to start them flying towards the raised net. When the birds struck, the men would drop the cables. Alternatively, weighted net frames were used, and these would collapse by themselves with the weight of the birds, thus trapping the ducks. Before the birds escaped, hunters would quickly wring their necks or kill them with sticks. This system required great skill. The aerial net was very efficient and could capture many birds at once. The Kutenai shared these with the community, and the Coast Salish made gifts of the ducks. A successful hunter may present each community member with two or three ducks. The Coast Salish of Puget Sound would often prepare for a potlatch by catching many ducks with the aerial net [50, 54, 65, 82, 99-101].
Cultures that used snares include the lower Kutenai, people of Port Simpson, Inuit, Plains Cree, Huron and Westmain Cree [27, 69, 78, 79, 103]. The Duck Chief of the Kutenai knew the patterns of the flocks and could direct the best location for setting the traps . Yukon cultures set duck snares in the grass and in the willows, along the trails leading to the water [66, 102]. Pole-snaring was used by the Ahtna ; Inuit used simple snares and bag nets attached to long poles [19, 47]. Among Wainwright Inupiat and Bering Strait Yupik, snares were used to catch ducks in the water. In winter, a pole was extended from the ice into the water. This held baleen loops to catch the heads of swimming ducks. Ducks could also be taken from the ice . Hunters would hide among the slabs of ice and wait for passing flocks .
Among the lower Kutenai, making duck snares and nets was a community activity. Twined bark was woven around a large frame . The Coast Salish made aerial nets of cedar bark, gut or sinew, and these could easily catch whole flocks, which would come to rest and feed while migrating [65, 100, 101, 104]. The holes of the net were large enough to pass a duck’s head, but too small for the shoulders. Wainwright Inupiat and Sechelt made similar nets that were raised as a flock approached. Men would hide behind blinds and hoist the net with cables, strung between two poles or trees along the shore [54, 90]. Among the Straits people, the sets of poles were either owned by individual families or open to the whole community [50, 82]. Among the Katzie, the suspended nets were usually family-owned and the trapped ducks belonged only to the hunter’s family .
Duck was considered good food by many cultures including Salish, those from the Yukon, Inuit, Cree, Abitibi and Micmac [48, 91, 93, 102, 105, 107, 108]. Among the Red Earth Cree, duck was a highly esteemed food and the center of many feasts and religious celebrations. Duck was the most important course during these meals . Although duck was not abundant for the Kaska, it was a favourite treat and was always savoured . The Koyukon held large spring feasts of duck in May and June . Among Clyde Inuit, duck-hunting groups were usually comprised of kin, and the meat was shared among them . Montagnais hunters of the St. Lawrence also shared duck with relatives, or distributed the meat at feasts .
Cultures including the people of Port Simpson and Mistissini Cree brought the ducks back to camp where they would be plucked and cleaned. The feathers were often saved in bags for making pillows, but the pinfeathers were singed off with fire. The skin was then scraped clean and the birds were dipped in hot water before cooking. The Mistissini would slice the birds down the middle, along the ventral line, opening the bodies to remove the viscera. The birds were then speared on sticks and roasted over a fire [61, 79]. The Kutchin would also cut open the sternum and breast to lay the duck flat. They were also skewered and cooked on the fire .
The Coast Salish would usually barbecue ducks on the spot. The birds were hung on spits or racks over a fire, and the pinfeathers would burn off easily. After living on dried food over winter, barbecued duck was a welcomed treat. This marked the beginning of the fresh food cycle. To test the doneness of roasted ducks, they would pull at the legs and wings, which would move easily when fully cooked. The skin and feathers would also come off easily. Baked duck was also a favourite of the Salish. Women would fetch blue gray clay from the beaches and plaster this over the cleaned, unplucked birds. Once the clay was dry, the birds were placed in pits and covered in hot coals. After the bird was cooked, the clay was cracked open, and the skin and feathers would come off easily, leaving a clean and juicy meal [65, 82, 100].
Roasted duck was also enjoyed by the Southern Okanagan  and Tahltan [43, 111]. The Micmac of Conne River, Newfoundland, roasted duck meat when they were traveling. The bone was removed and the flesh was spread on a stick. Fire roasting was easiest because pots could not be carried when hunters were on the move . Similarly, the Chipewyan roasted ducks while in the bush, but back at camp, the birds were usually boiled .
Boiling was a common method of cooking. The upper Tanana plucked and cleaned the carcasses prior to boiling ; the Nootka skinned the ducks before boiling . Ducks were also boiled by Inuit of Qikiqtarjuaq (formerly Broughton Island) . The people of Kitimat (Haisla) and Tahltan used birch bark containers or baskets, filled with water and hot stones to cook the ducks [18, 43, 114]. It is thought that the Beothuk also boiled duck in large bark pots, each capable of holding twelve ducks. These massive pots were used for preparing feasts . The Attawapiskat Cree boiled duck with the heart, lungs and kidneys still attached, but the intestines were not eaten. Occasionally the head, wings and lower legs were also boiled. These were given to women and children left alone in camp. Boiling was preferred, as this produced a thick broth to take with the meal . Inuit also liked thick duck soup. The duck’s insides, entrails, head and feet were used for thickening the broth . The Coast Salish and people of Port Simpson also made duck soup . The Coast Salish made a special duck soup often served at weddings, naming ceremonies and other important occasions. Vegetables were often added for flavouring [65, 82, 100]. Wainwright Inupiat made duck meat into a delicious stew , and Alaska Kutchin regularly cooked duck into a thin stew. To prepare this, the meat was boiled in water with rice or noodles; vegetables and condiments were added for taste . The Chippewa (Anishinabek) boiled ducks with wild rice or potatoes, and other meats were sometimes added .
Duck was sometimes eaten raw when cooking was not possible. This occurred for Inuit of Qikiqtarjuaq, among others [113, 116].
Duck meat was preserved for times of scarcity by drying, smoking, freezing and salting. Some cultures including the upper Tanana and Attawapiskat hung duck carcasses to dry [13, 35, 48]. The Nuxalk smoked and dried their duck meat . The Coast Salish sometimes dried the meat for later storage. Preserved ducks ready for eating were soaked in goose or mallard fat . Although most duck meat was eaten fresh in the Yukon, some was dried for the long winter months [66, 102]. Dried and cured duck meat was a staple food for the lower Kutenai. After the good feathers were removed and the pinfeathers were burned off, the skin was removed and kept for the fat. The carcasses were split down the middle, along the breastbone and the flesh was quickly dried beside a fire. The ducks were stored in cedar boxes, similar to those used for keeping fish . In fall, ducks are fat and the oil was a desired condiment for berries or meat, especially dried duck meat. The Kutenai would mix the fat with dried meat. Duck skins and surface fat were kept in bark containers. The drippings collected from drying meat could also be added to the fat mixture. These containers were kept in a cold place, so that the fat could last through the winter. The containers were occasionally checked, and spoiled grease was scraped away . On occasion, the Red Earth Cree smoked, dried or boiled ducks to extract their grease. The fat, as well as the meat were often saved for winter; the cold weather helped keep the meat from spoiling. They also plucked, gutted and salted the ducks and then buried them outside in wooden boxes as storage until winter consumption . Other cultures are also reported to have stored salted duck meat in baskets for later use . The Potawatomi pickled ducks in brine. These were then smoked and stored for later use .
Freezing was another preservation technique employed by those in cold climates. Some northern cultures stored duck carcasses in permafrost pits . Wainwright Inupiat froze ducks in underground ice cellars, and they would pluck them prior to eating in winter . Inuit of Littleton and the McGary Islands would kill many ducks during the nesting season, and would cache them for winter. Ducks were a special treat in times of scarcity . Inuit saved duck for special winter feasts . While on spring hunting trips, Mistissini men would often bury ducks in the snow for later consumption .
Duck eggs were often consumed and enjoyed by many cultures from west to east including the Coast Salish, Ingalik, Inuit, Sioux, Micmac, Cree and Iroquois [2, 3, 17, 27, 59, 69, 91, 100, 113, 121, 122]. Duck eggs were especially favoured by the Fort Nelson Slave (Sahtu) .
Eggs were gathered when available in spring to summer. For example, Athapaskan (including Upper Tanana and Chipewyan) reportedly collected duck eggs in spring [35, 124] and Inuit of Eskimo Point and Lake Melville, Labrador are reported to have collected and consumed duck eggs in late spring and summer [46, 70]. Cultures were usually careful to take only a few eggs at a time, so the birds did not become suspicious and to ensure continuity of the species .
Eggs were often boiled. Athapaskan reportedly boiled and ate eggs immediately after collecting them . For example, the Fort Nelson Slave brought eggs home to be boiled with hot stones in baskets filled with water . By contrast, Shuswap pit-cooked eggs . Both cooked and raw duck eggs were also favoured by the Kalispel . Eggs were also stored for later consumption. For example, Inuit would gather many eggs during the nesting period and cache them for winter when this out-of-season food become a delicacy . Ducks still containing their eggs were killed by the Attawapiskat Cree during minooskamin. The eggs were then cooked together with the bird’s meat .
Uses other than food
Duck feathers were commonly used by many cultures in several ways [33, 44, 105, 118]. Feathers were used to fletch arrows by cultures including the Nootka of Vancouver Island and Cape Flattery, Nuxalk, Chilcotin and Mistissini [7, 11, 62, 120]. The feathers were also used for bedding and pillows. The Red Earth Cree valued duck feathers for the comfort and warmth they provided . They decorated clothing, especially for celebrations. Cultures of the Yukon made headdresses and healing amulets of duck feathers . The Southwestern Coast Salish made crafts from the feathers and skin of ducks , and the Coast Salish would mix the down with nettle-fiber twine to fabricate clothing. In Vancouver, where the ducks were plentiful, local peoples were said to wear beautiful clothing adorned with duck feathers and down .
Duck bones were also used. The Hare and Dogrib of Lac la Marte made arrowheads and awls from the leg bones . Dogrib also fashioned beads from duck bones .
Diving ducks of unspecified species, also referred to as divers, are reported to have been hunted by many northwest coast cultures . The Coast Salish would go out in boats away from the land to hunt divers . Nets were not useful because the birds would swiftly dive away from the hunters . Rather, multi-pronged spears were used for hunting salt-water diving ducks . Coast Salish Straits would hunt at night with a fire in their canoe. When the sleeping birds were startled by the light and noise, they would swim to the boat’s shadow for cover. Here, the diving ducks were easily obtained with spears .
Submerged nets were used to catch diving ducks by the Coast Salish [54, 82, 83]. In spring, nets were planted underwater in areas where the ducks fed on herring roe. The nets were made with the same materials as the raised duck net. Either one very long net or a series of shorter nets could be installed. These were anchored with rocks, and the lines were attached to cedar sticks to keep the net floating above the water-floor. The ducks swimming underwater would come up beneath the net, become entangled, and drown. Overnight, a hunter could catch ten to thirty birds in this way. If a hunter had visitors, he would graciously invite his guests to share in the catch [82, 83].
Diving ducks were a particular favourite in the Arctic. Diving ducks were associated with special powers and would take human form in many Arctic stories . Hexwa (a form of magic) was sometimes performed in the Arctic by drinking from the shell of a diving duck’s egg. This practice was said to improve one’s swimming skills .
Scoters, often referred to locally as black ducks (not to be confused with the Mallard-like Black Duck), were hunted by cultures including Coast Salish, Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka'wakw), Baffin Island Inuit, Labrador Inuit, and Cree of Hudson and James Bay lowlands [54, 82, 118, 125-129]. Coast Salish hunted scoter from canoes using multi-pronged spears that were thrown at flocks. Nets were not used because scoters dive quickly out of reach. If the canoe was close enough, hunters could grab the birds with their bare hands . Scoters were often hunted in May by Micmac (Mi'kmaq) of Conne River, Newfoundland . Hunters took advantage of scoters needing to run into the wind to take flight, by using their canoes to drive the birds towards a shore with a lot of brush and then shooting them as they attempted flight . The Dogrib of Lac la Marte hunted scoters from May to October , and Mistissini Cree hunted them with decoys and blinds in spring and fall [59-62]. The Micmac of Conne River fire-roasted scoters, which they considered good food for hunting trips .
White-winged Scoter was hunted in spring and fall by The Peel River Kutchin (Gwich’in). These ducks were a good source of food when other game was scarce . The Dene/Metis relished the flesh and fat of White-winged Scoters and Surf scoters . White-winged Scoter was a particular favourite of the Kutchin  and was also consumed by Labrador Inuit [36, 127, 132, 133].
The Black Scoter is reported to have been eaten by Inuvialuit and Labrador Inuit [132, 134]. Black Scoter was also important to the diets of Sahtu and Dene/Metis [125, 135]. In fall, these birds were good food for the Hare . The Sahtu consumed the meat, gizzard, guts and heart of Black Scoter .
The Surf Scoter was eaten in summer by Ontario First Nations . Nuvorugmiut (Inuvialuit), Labrador Inuit and Den/Metis [36, 127, 132, 133].
Eiders, including Common Eider, King Eider, Spectacled Eider, and Steller’s Eider, are reported to have been consumed by many including Fort Nelson Slave (Dene), Alaskan cultures (Yupik and Inupiat), and Inuit (of Qikiqtarjuaq - formerly Broughton Island-, Hudson Bay, Labrador and Greenland), among others [19, 48, 90, 123, 127, 138-142]. The now-extinct Labrador Duck is reported to have been an Inuit favourite: the bird was eaten with relish in spring, and its eggs were highly regarded by Inuit .
In summer, eiders are reported to have helped vary the diet of the St. Lawrence Yupik [141, 142]. Greenland Inuit  and Wainwright Inupiat  hunted eider in spring and summer, when these ducks were plentiful. However, Labrador Inuit hunted eider in January and February, when sea mammals were scarce, and also are reported to have hunted eider during the fall migration [19, 127].
The Common Eider is reported to have been consumed in spring and summer by Wainwright Inupiat, Clyde Inuit, Ontario First Nations and Labrador Inuit, among others [36, 37, 85, 90, 132, 137, 143]. King eider was also hunted in spring and summer by cultures of Alaska (including Wainwright Inupiat), Clyde Inuit, Ontario First Nations, and Labrador Inuit [37, 48, 90, 132, 137, 138, 143]. King Eiders were shot in abundance in June by Inupiat of the Nuiqsut and Barrow regions . Steller’s Eider and Spectacled Eider are reported to have been hunted by Wainwright Inupiat .
Wainwright Inupiat would lure eider by imitating their calls. During duck hunting season, families would camp on the beach so that they could hear the flocks approaching. The hunters would hide behind blinds or piles of ice or they would wear white clothing as camouflage in the snow. The hunters would aim for the wings, often hitting more than one bird at a time. The wounded birds were lifted from the ground and spun by the head to wring the necks. A man has been said to kill a duck without inflicting pain by piercing through its heart and lungs, using a quill from the bird’s wing-feather. After a long hunt, the hunters would bundle up the carcasses and bring them home by sleigh. On a good day, fifty birds would be shot and shared among members of the hunting group .
Northern cultures are also reported to have shot eider from boats using arrows, bird-darts, harpoon-throwers or multi-pronged spears [19, 48, 116]. Bolas, made of small ivory balls attached to lines of braided sinew tied together at one end, were also used. This sling was spun once around the head and launched into an eider flock. The weights would spread and wrap around the wings or necks of the birds, trapping several eiders at once. This weapon was effective but required great skill. Men, women and children would use bolas in spring and fall when flocks flew overhead during migration [48, 91]. The Chukchi are reported to have used a type of sling called an eplicathet to hunt eider. This was a silent weapon made of weights fashioned from walrus teeth and strings of cotton. A handle of wing-feathers was attached. When not in use, the sling could be kept at home or worn like a crown around the forehead .
Eider, a favourite in the North, is reported to have been consumed raw or cooked (either roasted or boiled) . In fall, they were fat and tasty. Some Inuit are reported to have stripped the skin from the breast, and sliced off the raw breast meat. The legs were also cut off, and the meat could be fried in the eider’s fat . Some Inuit are reported to have plucked the feathers, removed the skin, and boiled the meat. Once the meat was cooked, the skin and fat were added to the pot, and left to boil as well. The melted fat would float on the surface and could be collected with a musk-ox ladle and set to congeal. The solidified fat was eaten with great relish; with small pieces broken off for each member of the family. If there was not enough fat to make this tallow, the fat was sipped immediately from the ladle . Belcher Island Inuit reportedly consumed duck meat, gizzard, liver and heart. The birds were usually eaten cooked, but the flesh was also consumed raw . Similarly, Clyde Inuit reportedly consumed Common and King Eider either raw or boiled. The whole bird was eaten; the skin was removed and used as a rag or given to children to be used as a toy . Freshly caught eider was reported to have been stored in underground ice cellars to keep for winter consumption . The Coast Salish are reported to have roasted eider on a spit, baked it in clay and hot ashes or boiled it in a soup or stew [65, 82, 100].
Eiders have large eggs that were greatly favoured as delicious by Arctic cultures . These eggs were an important food source for Inuit in early summer . The eggs of Common Eider and King Eider are reported to have been gathered by Labrador Inuit May and June [19, 143].
Northwestern Greenland Inuit collected large numbers of eggs and cached them beneath rock piles. Once several months had passed, the frozen eggs were taken out and the shells removed. The raw eggs were devoured with much delight. These eggs were also stored as “sausages”, made by “sucking them, masticating the whites and yolks together, and expectorating them into castings prepared from seal intestines” .
Uses other than food
Eider down was also used. In Iceland, the down was used for stuffing cushions and quilts. Eider skin, particularly King Eider, was used for parkas and clothing throughout the North [19, 48]. In the Arctic, eiders were a prominent character in many stories and were featured on wooden masks worn for ceremonial dances .
Mergansers were reportedly an important food source for west coast cultures, Sahtu Dene/Metis, Red Earth Cree, Labrador Inuit and others [106, 127, 129, 131, 136].
The Nootka (Nuu-chah-nulth) of Vancouver Island and Cape Flattery hunted mergansers in April. Stormy weather forced the flocks into coves for shelter. Hunters in canoes would trap the birds in nets or spear them. On clear nights, the men would go out into the lake, searching for mergansers to shoot with arrows .
The Common Merganser is reported to have been eaten by Nuvorugmiut (Inuvialuit), Hare (Sahtu) and Labrador Inuit [36, 44, 132], Kwakiutl (Kwakwaka'wakw)  and Mistissini Cree [59-62]. Decoys made of tule reed frames covered in bird skin helped to lure the flocks . The Kaska did not usually eat these ducks because they found them to have an unpleasant taste .
The Red-breasted Merganser was also hunted by Nuvorugmiut, Hare, Belcher Island Inuit and Labrador Inuit [36, 44, 132, 140]. Wainwright Inupiat hunted Red-breasted Mergansers in spring and early summer when they were plentiful. The birds’ calls could be imitated to lure the flocks to blinds on land or in boats. The ducks were shared among all members of a hunting group .
The Hooded Merganser was sometimes eaten by Labrador Inuit .
Long-tailed Duck, previously referred to as Old Squaw, was an important part of Arctic Peoples diet, hunted by many by cultures including Inuvialuit, Tlingit, Hare (Sahtu) and Ontario First Nations [36, 44, 80, 134, 137, 138]. The duck was abundant for the Wainwright Inupiat spring through fall. The loud cry of the Long-tailed Duck was sometimes imitated by hunters to lure the ducks closer. They were shot in the air or bolas were used, but because the flocks fly high and fast, they were easier to obtain while they swam. In fact, Long-tailed Duck was considered difficult to obtain even when wounded. Long-tailed Ducks were sometimes shot in January along the edge of the icy shore. In general, Long-tailed Ducks were not as sought after as others ducks like eider, because they were not considered as tasty [41, 48, 54, 84, 90]. Because of their taste, Clyde Inuit only shot Long-tailed Duck as emergency food .
Goldeneyes were hunted by Nuvorugmiut (Inuvialuit), Labrador Inuit and others [36, 127]. Both Common Goldeneye and Barrow’s Goldeneye were found and hunted along the Labrador coast . In May, the Micmac (Mi'kmaq) of Conne River, Newfoundland ate small quantities of goldeneye. Common goldeneye was also eaten in December . The Hare (Sahtu) hunted Common and Barrow’s Goldeneye in autumn .
Bufflehead were hunted by Ontario First Nations in summer  and by Hare hunting from canoes in fall . The Nootka (Nuu-chah-nulth) of Vancouver Island and Cape Flattery also hunted this bird and called it “butterball”. In April (Flying Flocks Moon), the stormy weather forced the birds to seek shelter in coves. Men would go out in canoes to hunt bufflehead with nets, arrows or spears with barbed prongs . In the Arctic, the butterball was sometimes consulted as a chief spirit helper .
Greater Scaup is reported to have been hunted by Ontario First Nations . Nuvorugmiut (Inuvialuit) and Hare (Sahtu) hunted both Greater Scaup and Lesser Scaup in fall [36, 44]. In the North, scaup was used to make coats and rugs .
Canvasback is reported to have been consumed by Indigenous People of Puget Sound . Coast Salish hunted canvasback with aerial nets hung between two poles. When light was dim (at dawn or twilight), flocks would fly into the nets and waiting hunters would wring the necks as they fell to the ground .
Harlequin Ducks were found and hunted along the Labrador coast by Labrador Inuit . The Nootka (Nuu-chah-nulth) hunted harlequin duck in April when stormy weather forced the birds to seek shelter in coves. Hunters would hunt in canoes with nets, arrows or spears with barbed prongs .
Dabbling ducks of unspecified species were hunted by the Central Coast Salish. Men would go out in canoes with flares and pole-nets to find a flock [54, 105]. Hand-nets attached to cedar poles were used by the Samish for small dabbling ducks. Lines were attached for retrieving the nets. The Lummi did not throw their nets, but rather used them for scooping up birds in the water. A hunter could obtain 200 birds in a single night using a hand-net . Dabbling ducks were also trapped with snares .
A widespread and common dabbling duck, Mallards are reported to have been hunted by many cultures including the Tlingit, Fort Nelson Slave (Dene), Sahtu, Dene/Metis, Inuvialuit, Cree and Onondaga (Iroquois) [36, 80, 118, 123, 125, 126, 129, 145-147]. Mallards were hunted spring through fall by many cultures including Nootka (Nuu-chah-nulth), Kutchin (Gwich’in), Dogrib of Lac la Marte; Hare (Sahtu) are reported to have hunted Mallards in fall [33, 44, 45, 96, 120]. American Black Ducks, which are closely related and similar in appearance to Mallards (except male American Black Ducks lack the characteristic green head of male Mallards in breeding plumage) are mentioned less often in ethnographic literature than Mallards, but were likely harvested and consumed throughout much of eastern North America, where they are common and widespread. Some confusion may also result from black duck being a common local name for one or more scoter species.
Knowing the flight patterns of Mallard flocks, Coast Salish hunters would set poles and aerial nets in areas where they frequently passed. The nets were woven fine in order to be invisible from afar. Early in the morning or at night, when the light was poor, Mallards would hit the nets and as they fell to the ground, hunters would wring the necks .
The Samish and Lummi would hunt Mallards from canoes using hand nets. The Lummi would use a pole attached to the net to scoop up the birds from the water, and the Samish would throw their nets at the flocks. The nets could be retrieved with lines attached to the poles . Hare are also reported to have hunted Mallards from canoes .
In spring and fall, Nootka hunted Mallards on Vancouver Island, and in Cape Flattery and Kyuquot. On dark, stormy nights, the flocks would take cover in coves and hunters would startle and blind the birds with firelight, making the ducks easily caught with arrows, nets, spears or even by hand [96, 120].
Mallards were important in the Kutchin diet . After a lean season, Mallards were a welcome sight to hungry Peel River Kutchin. The spring and fall migrations were good times to hunt these birds .
The Coast Salish usually roasted and consumed Mallard as soon as it was slaughtered, but the duck was also dried and stored. Dried meat would be soaked in Mallard fat to soften it and improve the taste . Mallards were said to be particularly good in fall . The Mallard was an important food source for the Sahtu Dene/Metis: the meat, gizzard and heart were eaten . Mallard nests, often found along the edge of the Mackenzie River, were often raided by some cultures for duck eggs .
The Mallard was also revered for its intelligence. Yukon cultures have said that this bird is as smart as a mountain sheep, and nearly as clever as a beaver .
Teal, including Blue-winged Teal and Green-winged Teal, is reported to have been hunted by Northwest Coast cultures such as Coast Salish, Nootka (Nuu-chah-nulth) and Tlingit as well as Fort Nelson Slave (Dene) and Labrador Inuit [80, 88, 105, 118, 123, 127]. Coast Salish used aerial nets hung between two poles. When light was dim (at dawn or twilight) flocks would fly into the nets and waiting hunters would wring the necks as they fell to the ground . In the far North, however, teal was not hunted with raised duck nets because this duck was small enough to fit through holes in this net [82, 90]. After a lean season, the Peel River Kutchin (Gwich’in) would hunt teal to avoid starvation. Teal was also hunted during spring and fall migrations . Alaskan Kutchin would share Green-winged Teal among many hunters and often throughout the village . The Hare (Sahtu) and Nuvorugmiut (Inuvialuit) also hunted Green-winged Teal, especially in September and October. Hare hunters would shoot from canoes while on hunting trips [36, 44]. St. Lawrence Montagnais (Innu) sought teal in April . The Onondaga (Iroquois) hunted Blue-winged Teal . Nootka would usually boil teal after skinning .
Northern Pintail were hunted in the Hudson and James Bay lowlands of Ontario . Tlingit, Hare (Sahtu), Kutchin (Gwich’in), Inuvialuit, and Labrador Inuit are also reported to have eaten pintail [36, 41, 44, 80, 118, 127]. Spring and summer were pintail hunting seasons for Ontario First Nations and Wainwright Inupiat . Flocks were often lured closer by hunters imitating their calls. Hunters would shoot pintails as they flew overhead; hunters often traveled by boat in search of flocks .
The American Wigeon is reported to have been eaten by Tlingit and Labrador Inuit [80, 132]. The Peel River Kutchin (Gwich’in) hunted migrating wigeon to keep from starving after a harsh winter . The American Wigeon was hunted and eaten by Nuvorugmiut (Inuvialuit), Kutchin and Ontario First Nations [36, 41, 137]. Ontario First Nations are reported to have hunted in summer .
The Northern Shoveler, also known as spoonbill, is reported to have been eaten by Nuvorugmiut (Inuvialuit) . A “spoonbill”, likely to have been the Northern Shoveler, is reported to have been eaten by the Coast Salish. They and the Samish used hand nets. A cedar pole, with two cross pieces held a rectangular net. A line was attached to facilitate retrieval after the net was thrown. The Lummi used nets from canoes to scoop up frightened birds. Hunters would wring the necks of these “spoonbills” once they were caught in the net. Snares are also reportedly used [54, 82]. The Coast Salish used the meat, fat and feathers of this “spoonbill”. The feathers were used to adorn clothing .
The Wood Duck is reported to have been eaten by northwest coast cultures .
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Ducks are a group of waterfowl most closely related to geese and swans. Relative to swans and geese, ducks are smaller, have a shorter neck, and males have more colourful breeding plumage. Ducks can be divided into three large groups: perching ducks, dabbling ducks, and diving ducks. In North America, there is only one species of perching duck, the wood duck (Aix sponsa), which is quite similar in biology to most dabbling ducks, except for its unique tree perching and nesting behaviours. Dabbling ducks are characterized by their “tipping up” behaviour while sieving the water surface mainly for plant food, and by their agility in flight, taking off and landing quickly from small water bodies, but also on land, walking moderately well. Diving ducks forage mainly underwater and have legs further back on their body with large feet and webs, making them less comfortable walking on land, but more effective divers. Among diving ducks, there are three main groups: freshwater diving ducks (called pochards), mergansers, and sea ducks .
Diving ducks are a diverse group of waterfowl that forage by fully submerging themselves underwater. They have large, webbed feet and legs located far back on the body, making them less comfortable walking on land but more effective divers than dabbling ducks. Diving ducks are heavier-bodied birds with broader and more rounded wings than dabblers, meaning they have more difficulty generating lift when taking off from water. Thus, while dabbling ducks are capable of nearly vertical takeoff from water, diving ducks require a less elegant running and flapping start across the water surface prior to becoming fully airborne. Diving ducks also have more rapid wing beats in flight than dabbling ducks .
Among diving ducks, there are three main groups: freshwater diving ducks (called pochards), mergansers, and sea ducks. Freshwater diving ducks, which include the Canvasback (Aythya valisineria) and several scaups species that are medium-sized ducks with typically broad and heavy bills adapted to feed underwater, mostly on aquatic plants, but also on some animal foods. Mergansers and sea ducks (including eiders, scoters, goldeneyes, Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus), Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis), and Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola)) are cold-adapted diving ducks that breed in the tundra or northern forests and winter on coastal waters. Mergansers and sea ducks feed mainly, if not exclusively, on animal material, including fish and shellfish, causing them to, in general, have a stronger and, to many, a less pleasing taste than more vegetarian diving and dabbling ducks. Mergansers are often found in freshwater, have a long, narrow, serrated, and hooked bill adapted to their specialized diet on fish, while most sea ducks are stalky with a short-neck and a heavy shell-crushing bill well-suited for a shellfish diet.
Scoters are arctic-adapted diving sea ducks that breed in tundra or northern forest regions and winter in coastal waters. Like other sea ducks, they feed mainly, if not exclusively, on animal material, including shellfish and fish. They are stocky birds, with a short-neck, and a heavy shell-crushing bill well suited to a shellfish diet. In North America, scoter species include the White-winged Scoter (Melanitta fusca), the Black Scoter (Melanitta nigra), and the Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata) .
The White-winged Scoter is the most common and widespread North American scoter species, breeding from northwestern Alaska eastward across the Yukon and Northwest Territories to Hudson Bay, and south through western Canada to southern Manitoba. All populations migrate to the coastal areas for winter, with western populations wintering from Alaska to California and eastern populations from the Gulf of St. Lawrence to South Carolina. White-winged Scoters, called macreuse brune in French, are the largest of scoters, typically weighing between 1.2 and 1.6 kg, and have a heavy bill with a dark knob at the base and feathers on the sides. They are uniformly dark coloured other than a bright white wing patch. Breeding White-winged Scoter males have white eyes with a white eye-patch, a white edge on the wing, and a red, orange, black, and white bill. Females are sooty brown with a fairly uniform dark brown head colour and whitish patches on the side of the head. White-winged Scoters are strong flyers, able to take off after a short run along the surface and, once airborne, use a rapid wing beat to fly fast and direct, often low over the water. But they spend most of their time loafing or swimming on the water surface, occasionally diving to acquire prey, usually from or near the bottom. White-winged Scoters prefer to nest in coastal archipelagos and lakes of the northern coniferous forest zone. They feed mainly on mollusks and crustaceans, but also on some insects, fish, and plant foods. They first breed in their second year, renew pair bonds yearly, lay about 9 eggs that are incubated for about 28 days. Crows and ravens are known to take eggs, while gulls can take ducklings. The North American population of White-winged Scoter is estimated at around one million birds .
The Black Scoter breeds either in northern Alaska or in northern Quebec and Labrador, but breeding records are limited. They winter on the Pacific coast from the Aleutian Islands to southern California, on the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland to South Carolina, and some in the interior, especially on the Great Lakes. Most Black Scoters migrate between coastal wintering areas and northern inland breeding areas and some might do a cross-continental migration. Their French common name is macreuse noire. Black Scoters are a medium size duck, typically weighing around 1 kg, with a relatively long pointed tail, a dark bill with a hooked tip, and brownish black legs and feet. Breeding Black Scoter males are the only all-black duck in North America with only a yellow-orange knob at the base of the bill. Female Black Scoters have a dark brown cap, grayish white cheeks, throat, and fore neck, and darker brown hind neck and body. Black Scoters prefer to nest around freshwater ponds, lakes, or rivers in shrubby tundra or wooded country where they feed on mainly on shellfish. They first breed in their second year, renew pair bonds each year, lay around 8 eggs that are incubated for about 29 days, and young fledge 33 days after hatching. Bald eagles, minks, and foxes could be responsible for some egg and duckling losses. There is limited reliable population information for North American Black Scoters, but there are thought to be around 100,000 breeding birds in Alaska and 50,000 in Quebec and Labrador .
The Surf Scoter breeds only in North America, from western Alaska eastward through the Yukon and the Northwest Territories to southern Hudson Bay, and in the interior of Quebec and Labrador. They migrate from breeding locations to winter on the Pacific coast from the Aleutian Islands to the Gulf of California and on the Atlantic coast from the Bay of Fundy to Florida, with smaller numbers wintering on the Great Lakes. Surf Scoters, called macreuse à front blanc in French, are a medium size duck, weighing around 1kg, with a unique rounded or squarish black mark on the side of the bill that has a swollen base. Breeding surf scoter males have white markings on the forehead and back of the neck, white eyes, and a black, white, red and yellow multi-coloured bill. Females have a dark brown cap, whitish cheeks and ears, dusky brown body, and a greenish black bill. Surf Scoters nest preferably around freshwater ponds, lakes, or rivers, with shrubby cover or woodland in the vicinity. They feed mainly on mollusks, crustaceans and insects, including some plant foods. Surf Scoters first breed in their second year, renew pair bonds yearly, lay around 6 eggs incubated for about 28 days, and fledge 53 days after hatching. Eagles, peregrine falcons, and foxes could be responsible for some egg and duckling losses. Surf Scoter populations are estimated at around 750,000 birds in North America .
Eiders are arctic-adapted, diving, sea ducks breeding in the tundra or northern forests and wintering in coastal waters. Eiders have dense down feathers that insulate them against cold arctic waters and females pluck their own down to line their nests. Like other sea ducks, eiders feed mainly, if not exclusively, on animal material, including shellfish and fish. They are stocky with a short-neck and a heavy shell-crushing bill adapted to their shellfish-based diet. In North America, eider species include the Common Eider (Somateria mollissima), King Eider (Somateria spectabilis), Spectacled Eider (Somateria fischeri), and Steller’s Eider (Polysticta stelleri). The now extinct Labrador Duck (Camptorhynchus labradorius) was very similar to eiders .
The Common Eider has the most extensive coastal breeding range of North American eiders, ranging from the Aleutian Islands and Alaska Peninsula, eastward along the northern arctic coast and offshore islands to the Hudson Bay, Labrador, Newfoundland, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and coastal Maine. They also winter in coastal areas from Alaska southward to Washington and along the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland and the Gulf of St. Lawrence south to the middle Atlantic states. Most populations migrate short to medium distances, but some are year-round residents. The Common Eider is the largest sea duck in North America, weighing between 1.3 and 2.6 kg. Heavy-bodied, with a short neck, this species has a distinct and unique sloping head profile with a long triangular bill feathered along both sides up to below the nostrils. Breeding Common Eider males have a white mantle extending from the back to the breasts and the anterior base of the wings, a whitish head with black cap and a pale greenish patch below, and a gray to green bill turning yellow-orange in summer. Female Common Eiders are light brown with darker brown barring. Common Eiders preferably nest in low-lying rocky marine shores, first breeding in their second or third year, renewing pair bonds annually, laying around 4 eggs which are incubated for about 27 days, and young fledging 60 days after hatching. Ravens, gulls, and arctic foxes are responsible for most egg and duckling predation. In Alaska, the Canadian Arctic, and the Hudson Bay area, the Common Eider population has been estimated at around 370,000 birds, but numbers are thought to have decreased in recent years .
The King Eider is a typical arctic breeder, with the southernmost North American breeding occurring at about 55° N. latitude. They breed from northern Alaska, along coasts and islands of the Canadian Arctic, to the northern coast of Labrador. King Eiders winter on the north Pacific from the Aleutian Islands to California, and on the Atlantic coast from to Newfoundland to Georgia. They are long-distance migrants and no population is year-round resident. The King Eider is a large sea duck, weighing between 1.2 and 2.1 kg, chunky-bodied with a short neck and a compressed head. Breeding King Eider males are spectacular with their blue-gray head, white-greenish cheeks, large orange knob at the base of their red-orange bill, creamy white chin, neck, and breast, contrasting sharply with the black belly, sides, back, tail, and rump. Females King Eiders are rusty brown with crescent-shaped darker markings on the mantle and sides and have crested head with a dark bluish bill. They prefer to nest around freshwater ponds in the arctic tundra or lakes and streams close to the coast where they mainly feed on mollusks, crabs, and sea urchins. King Eiders first breed in their third year, renew pair bonds annually, lay around 5 eggs incubated for about 23 days, and their fledging period has not been reported. Foxes and gulls are important egg and duckling predators. The North American population of King Eiders is estimated at around half a million birds .
The Spectacled Eider has a limited North American breeding range, mainly along the north coast of Alaska, and is believed to winter in the north Pacific or the Bearing Sea after migrating short distances. The Spectacled Eider is a medium-sized sea duck, with a partially feathered bill and a unique round patch of feather around the eyes, which looks like goggles. Breeding Spectacled Eider males have a black head with white eye-rings, cheeks, throat, neck, and back contrasting with dark breast, belly, sides, and tail, and with an orange bill. Females are brownish with darker bars on the mantle and sides, a darker patch between the eye and bill, and paler eye-rings. Spectacled Eiders nest preferably in lush lowland tundra with small ponds not too far from salt water where they feed mainly on mollusks and also on terrestrial and freshwater plants. They first breed in their second or third year, renew pair bonds annually, lay around 4 eggs incubated for about 24 days, and their young fledge 50 days after hatching. Jaegers, gulls, gyrfalcons, and foxes are the main egg and duckling predators. Spectacled Eiders have a world population estimated at around 330,000 birds, but have been classified as nationally threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act as a result of severely declining populations in western Alaska and possibly easternmost Russia and northern Alaska .
Steller’s Eider has a limited North American breeding range, mainly along the north coast of Alaska, and winters along the Aleutian Islands and the Alaska Peninsula after migrating some distances. Steller’s Eiders are the smallest of eiders and typically weigh between 850 and 880 g, with a compact body. This eider lacks feathering along the side and top of the bill, and has a long pointed tail, a short blackish bill, bluish wing patch bordered with white, and white underwings and wing bars. Males in breeding plumage have cinnamon sides and breast, a mostly white head with unique black markings around the eyes, a rounded black spot between the breast and the sides, and a dark glossy blue throat. Females are uniformly dark brown contrasting with the two white speculum borders. Steller’s Eiders nest preferably in lowland tundra close to the coast where they feed mainly on crustaceans and mollusks. They first breed in second or third year, seem to renew pair bond yearly, lay around 7 eggs, and their incubation and fledging period is still unreported. Gulls, jaegers, snowy owls, bald eagles, and gyrfalcons are all potential egg and duckling predators. The North American breeding population recently declined by half and is currently estimated at around 70,000 birds. Steller’s Eider has been recently classified as nationally threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act .
The Labrador Duck was the first endemic North American bird to go extinct. Little of the biology of this species was documented in the scientific literature, but they are thought to have resembled eiders or perhaps scoters. They were scoter-sized with a bill that broadened near the end, and was light colored at the base and black at the end. Adult males had a white head and neck, with a black stripe on the crown and a black neck-ring, with the rest of the body primarily black and wings primarily white. Adult females were grayish brown all over, except white wing patches and for light brown patches on cheeks, chin, and throat. Labrador Ducks may have nested along the Gulf of St. Lawrence, along the northern coast, and around the Ungava Peninsula, and likely wintered along the Atlantic coast from Nova Scotia to Maryland . It is unclear whether the disappearance of the Labrador Duck was caused by market hunting or was in part a natural extinction hastened by human harvest. Its breeding and wintering ranges were already very small in the 1800s, although plumage collectors could have contributed to this situation beginning in the 1700’s. What is clear is that the last Labrador Duck collected in Canada was shot at Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick in 1871 and the last collected in the United States was shot off Long Island, New York in 1875.
Mergansers are diving ducks that eat fish and shellfish, breeding in tundra or northern forest regions and wintering in coastal waters. Like other sea ducks, they feed mainly, if not exclusively, on animal material, including fish, crustaceans and aquatic insects. Mergansers are often found in freshwater, have a long, narrow, serrated, and hooked bill, well suited for catching fish. In North America, mergansers include the Common Merganser (Mergus merganser), Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator), and Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) .
Common Mergansers breed in forested regions from southern Alaska and the southern Yukon eastward across central Canada to James Bay and across the Labrador Peninsula to Newfoundland and Maritime provinces, southward in the western mountains to California, Arizona, and New Mexico, and northeastward to the Great Lakes, New York, and the New England states. They winter from southern Alaska to southern California, from Newfoundland to Florida, and in the interior wherever large rivers or deep lakes occur. Although breeding and wintering areas overlap, all North American Common Merganser populations migrate short to intermediate distances. Called grand harle in French, Common Mergansers are the largest merganser, typically weighing between 1.2 and 1.7 kg, with a long, slender, serrated and hooked scarlet-orange bill, a long neck, and white breast, belly, and underwings. Breeding males have a black head with a green gloss and no pronounced crest, white neck, breast, and sides, black back, and gray tail. Females have a grayish body, white breast, reddish brown neck and head with a shaggy crest, and a white chin. They prefer to nest in forested areas around upper river ponds or clear freshwater lakes where they feed mainly on fish. Common Mergansers first breed in their second year of life, reform pair bonds each year, lay around 9 eggs incubated for about 33 days, and their young fledge 65 days after hatching. Crows, ravens, gulls, eagles, owls, minks, and loons are all egg and duckling predators. The North American population of Common Mergansers is estimated at 640,000 birds .
The Red-breasted Merganser has the most northerly and the most extensive breeding range of North American mergansers, from Alaska eastward across nearly all of arctic Canada, except on northern arctic islands, south to northern British Columbia and Alberta, central Saskatchewan and Manitoba, southern Ontario, the Great Lakes states, northern New York, New England, and the eastern provinces of Canada. Red-breasted Mergansers mostly winter in sea water along the Pacific coast, from southeastern Alaska south to Mexico, along the Gulf and the Atlantic coasts up to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Great Lakes. They are one of the fastest flying ducks, often seen flying silently in small groups close to the water surface. Called harle huppé in French, Red-breasted Merganser s are a medium sized duck, typically weighing between 0.8 and 1.4 kg, with a reddish long, narrow, serrated and hooked bill, a long shaggy crest, a white belly, and red-orange legs and feet. Breeding males have a blackish head with a green gloss and shaggy crest, a white foreneck, brownish breast, a black and white patch between the breast and sides, grayish barred sides and flanks, black upperparts, and a large white square on the inner wing, visible while in flight. Females are grayish brown with a more brownish head, shaggy crest, and a white chin, throat, and foreneck. Red-breasted Mergansers prefer to nest around rock-lined, deep, and clear freshwater lakes, in which they dive mainly for small fish. Red-breasted Mergansers mostly breed in their second year, renew pair bond each year, lay around 9 eggs incubated for about 32 days, and their young fledge 60 days after hatching. Gulls are important predators of eggs and ducklings. The North American population of Red-breasted Merganser is estimated at around 240,000 birds .
The Hooded Merganser has a breeding range split into isolated eastern and western populations. In western North America, Hooded Mergansers breed as far north as southeastern Alaska continuing into British Columbia, the mountains of western Alberta and south to Oregon and Idaho, while in eastern North American, they are more widespread and they breed in forested regions from Manitoba eastward to around the Great Lakes, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia and southward to the Gulf coast states and along the Atlantic coast. Hooded Mergansers winter along the Pacific coast from southern British Columbia south to Mexico, along the Gulf coast, along the Atlantic coast north to the New England states, and to some extent in the interior, especially on the Great Lakes. Most migrate short to medium distance from their breeding range to their wintering range, but some are year-round resident in the southern portion of the range. Known as harle couronné in French, Hooded Mergansers are a small duck, the smallest of mergansers, with a dark, long, narrow, serrated, and hooked bill, a long tail darker above and paler below, a fanlike crest, yellowish legs and feet, a black and white upper wing pattern, and white belly and underwings. Breeding males have a distinct rounded white crest bordered with black, yellow eyes, a black head, neck and back, and white breast with two vertical black bars contrasting with chestnut sides. Females are grayish brown with a blackish back and have a loose cinnamon-tinted crest and a dark bill with yellowish lower mandible. Hooded Mergansers prefer to nest on wooded shorelines of clear-water streams or lakes with sufficient small fish and invertebrates, like crustaceans and aquatic insects, on which they mainly feed by diving and swimming underwater. Hooded Mergansers first breed in their second or third year, renew pair bond yearly, lay around 10 eggs incubated for about 33 days, and their young fledge 70 day after hatching. Raccoons are responsible for some egg and duckling losses. The Hooded Merganser is among the least abundant North American ducks with a continental population estimated at around 350,000 birds .
The Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis), known in North America until recently as the oldsquaw, is a diving sea duck that breeds in arctic North America from the northernmost parts of Ellesmere Island to the southern coastline of Hudson Bay and Labrador. The most widely distributed Arctic sea duck, Long-tailed Ducks occur along the coastlines of the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Manitoba, Quebec, and Labrador. Although some populations may be year-round resident in Alaska and Hudson Bay, most migrate to saltwater or deep freshwater habitats in winter, from Alaska south to Washington or on the Great Lakes and along the Atlantic coast south to South Carolina. Known as harelde kakawi in French, Long-tailed Ducks are a small but chubby duck, weighing between 700 and 800 g, with a short neck, a short stubby bill with a hooked tip. They are a variable mixture of white, brown, and blackish colours, always with whitish flanks, sides, and underparts and some white markings on the head and around the eyes. Breeding males have a uniquely elongated tail, consisting of two slim central tail-feathers that stream behind the male. Breeding males also have a pinkish ring at the tip of their black bill, a pale grayish brown face patch, a black head, neck and breasts, and a brownish back. Females have dark upperparts with blackish brown wings, brown breast, white belly, light-gray flanks, a white collar around the lower neck, and a blackish brown head with white patches around and extending behind eyes. Long-tailed Ducks prefer to nest in the arctic tundra close to lakes or ponds, coastlines, or islands with shrubby cover. They feed mainly on crustaceans, but also on mollusks, insects, and fish, diving to greater depths than other sea ducks, with dive depth sometimes exceeding 60 meters. Long-tailed ducks first breed in their second year, renew pair bonds each year, lay around 6 eggs incubated for about 25 days, and their young fledge 35 days after hatching. Ravens, jaegers, gulls, minks, and foxes are responsible for some egg and duckling losses. They are by far the most abundant arctic sea duck with a North American population of around 2.7 million birds .
Goldeneyes are cold-climate adapted, diving sea ducks that breed in the tundra or northern forest zone and winter in coastal waters. Like other sea ducks, they feed mainly, if not exclusively, on animal material, including shellfish and fish. They are stocky ducks with a short-neck and heavy bill that is well-suited to crushing shellfish. In North America, goldeneye species include the Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) and Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica) .
Common Goldeneyes breed in North American boreal coniferous forest from Alaska to southern Labrador and Newfoundland, and southward through the forested portions of the northern and northeastern United States. Common Goldeneyes migrate from breeding locations to winter either along the Pacific coast from southern Alaska to California, in the interior states wherever there is open water, or along the Atlantic coast from Florida to Newfoundland. Known as garrot à oeil d'or in French, the Common Goldeneye is a medium size duck, weighing between 0.8 and 1 kg, with yellowish-white eyes, a dark bill, yellow legs and feet, and dusky underwings. Breeding males have a black head with a green gloss, a distinct oval white patch in front of and below the eyes, a white body with a black back, rump, and tail, and parallel black lines extending from the back to the sides. Females have a chocolate brown head with a dark bill yellowish at the tip, a white collar, a brownish gray body, and a white wing patch. Common Goldeneyes nest preferably along marshy shores close to forested areas. They feed mainly on crustaceans, insects, mollusks, and on some plant foods. When flying, their wings make a distinct whistling sound, for which they are sometimes referred to as whistlers. Males have elaborate courtship displays that include head throws, kicks, grating calls and short flights, typically performed simultaneously by several males around a single female. Common Goldeneyes first breed in their second year, renew pair bonds each year, lay around 10 eggs incubated for about 30 days, and their young fledge 60 days after hatching. Various carnivores can be responsible for some rare egg and duckling losses. The North American breeding population of Common Goldeneyes is estimated at around 1.5 million birds .
Barrow’s Goldeneyes breed from southern Alaska southward through the western states and provinces to California and Colorado, as well as a small, isolated breeding range in northeastern Quebec and Labrador. Most migrate from breeding locations to winter along the Pacific coast from Alaska to central California and on the Atlantic coast from southern Canada to the mid-Atlantic states. Called garrot d'Islande in French, Barrow’s Goldeneye is a medium size duck, weighing between 0.8 and 1.3 kg, puffy-headed with golden eyes, a short triangular bill, a black tail, and yellow legs and feet. Breeding males have a black head with a purplish gloss and a distinct white crescent in front of and below the eye, white breasts and underparts, a black back and wing surface with a pattern of oval white spots towards the sides. Females have a dark brown head with some yellow on the bill, a dark grey-brown back, and some grayish brown mottling on breasts, sides and flanks. Barrow’s Goldeneyes prefer to nest around lakes or ponds close to wooded country where they feed mainly on insects, mollusks, crustaceans, and plant foods. They first breed in their second year, renew pair bond each year, lay around 10 eggs incubated for about 32 days, and their fledging time is unreported. Crows, jaegers, and owls can be responsible for some egg and duckling losses. The North American population of Barrow’s Goldeneye is estimated at around 150,000 birds .
The Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola) is a diving sea duck breeding from southern Alaska eastward through the forested portions of Canada to James Bay and southward into the western United States, northern California, and Montana. All populations migrate to winter either along the Pacific coast from the Aleutian Islands to central Mexico, along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts from Texas to southern Canada, or in the interior where open water occurs. Known as petit garrot in French, Buffleheads are the smallest of all North American diving ducks, weighing between 325 and 450 g, with a large rounded head, a short narrow dark bill, white underparts, speculum, and tail, and a white patch behind the eye on an otherwise dark head. Breeding males have a predominantly white plumage contrasting with a black back and head with green to purple gloss and a large white patch from the eye to the crest. Females have grey-brown upperparts and a dark head with a white teardrop or oval marking behind the eye. Buffleheads prefer to nest around ponds and lakes in or near open woodland. They forage underwater, from 1 to 5 m deep, and feed mainly on insects and on some plant materials. Buffleheads first breed in their second year, renew pair bonds each year, lay around 9 eggs incubated for about 30 days, and their young fledge 53 days after hatching. They are known to be predated by pike. The North American population of Buffleheads is estimated at one million birds .
Scaups are freshwater diving ducks with the typically broad and heavy bill suited to underwater feeding, mostly on aquatic plants, but also on some animal foods. In North America, scaup species include the Greater Scaup (Aythya marila), Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis), and the somewhat similar Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris) .
The Greater Scaup breeds mostly above 60° N latitude, from arctic Alaska and Yukon southward to extreme northwestern British Columbia and eastward to northern Manitoba, the Hudson Bay coast of Ontario and Quebec, the Ungava Bay coast, Anticosti Island, and eastern Newfoundland. They winter on the Pacific coast from Alaska to California, on the Gulf coast almost to Mexico, on the Atlantic coast from Florida to southern Canada, and on the eastern Great Lakes. All Greater Scaup populations migrate from their breeding to wintering ranges. Called fuligule milouinan in French, the Greater Scaup is a medium size duck, weighing around 1kg, with a white speculum, a dark blue-gray bill widening slightly at the tip, yellowish eyes, gray legs and feet, and a broad white wing stripe while in flight. Breeding males have finely barred gray back, a rounded black head, with a green gloss, a black neck, breast, rump, and tail, all contrasting with white sides and belly. Females are dark brown with a white belly and a white patch around the base of the bill. Greater Scaups nest in the tundra zone or forest zones adjacent to tundra, with relatively open landscape, and shallow waters with open, preferably grassy, shores. Unlike most other freshwater diving ducks, scaups feed mostly on animal materials including mollusks, insects, and crustaceans, but also feed on some seeds and vegetative parts of aquatic vegetation. Greater Scaups breed mostly in their first year, renew pair bond each year, lay around 9 eggs incubated for about 25 days, and their young fledge 55 days after hatching. Gulls, crows, and ravens account for most egg and duckling losses. The North American population of breeding Greater Scaups is about 400,000 birds .
The Lesser Scaup breeds in both forest and grassland areas from central Alaska eastward to western Hudson Bay and southward to Idaho, Colorado, Nebraska, and Dakota. In Canada, they breed southward from the treeline of the Yukon and the Northwest Territories across the forested portions of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba east to Hudson Bay and western Ontario. Lesser Scaups migrate long distances from breeding localities to winter from British Columbia southward along the Pacific coast to Mexico, Central America, and Colombia, and on the Atlantic coast from Colombia north to mid-Atlantic states. Called petit fuligule in French, the Lesser Scaup is a medium size duck, weighing between 0.6 and 1.2 kg, with a blue-gray bill, yellowish eyes, a pointed head, and a very little white wing stripe while in flight. Breeding males have whitish upperparts and sides, with some gray barring on the back, a black head with a purple gloss, a black neck, breast, rump, and tail, all contrasting with whitish sides and belly. Females have a dark brown head, neck, breast, and upperparts, with mottled brown sides, and a small white patch around the base of the bill. Lesser Scaups preferably nest in prairie marshes and partially wooded parklands around interior lakes and ponds or on low islands with moderate water depth and some vegetation cover on shore. Unlike most other freshwater diving ducks, scaups feed mostly on animal materials including mollusks, insects, and crustaceans, but also feed on some seeds and vegetative parts of aquatic vegetation. Lesser Scaups breed mostly in their first year, renew pair bond each year, lay around 10 eggs incubated for about 25 days, and their young fledge 55 days after hatching. Gulls and ground predators account for some egg and duckling losses. The North American breeding population of Lesser Scaup is close to 4 million birds .
The Canvasback (Aythya valisineria) is a large, freshwater diving duck breeding from central Alaska south to northern California and east to Nebraska and Minnesota. In Canada, they range from northern Yukon and Northwest Territories southeastward to central and southern British Columbia, and especially through the prairie areas of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Most Canvasbacks migrate to winter from southern Canada south along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to central and southern Mexico, but some western populations wintering within their breeding range. Called fuligule à dos blanc in French, the Canvasback is a large duck, weighing between 0.9 and 1.6 kg, with a distinctive long, dark bill sloping from its base to the tip, a long neck, and grayish blue legs and feet. Breeding males have red eyes, chestnut brown head and neck, and black breast contrasting with whitish sides and back. Females have an olive brown head and neck with grayish sides and back. Canvasbacks preferably nest in shallow prairie marshes surrounded by emergent vegetation and with enough open water for easy takeoff and landing. They feed mainly on seeds and vegetative parts of aquatic plants and on some mollusks and crustaceans. Canvasbacks breed in their first year, renew pair bond yearly, lay around 10 eggs incubated for about 25 day, and their young fledge 57 days after hatching. Egg and duckling predators include skunks, raccoons, crows, and magpies. In North America, the breeding Canvasback population is estimated at around 700,000 birds .
The Harlequin Duck (Histrionicus histrionicus) is a diving sea duck that breeds in western North America, from Alaska and the Yukon south through the western mountains to central California and Colorado, and northeastern North America, from eastern Hudson Bay across northern Quebec to the Ungava Bay and Labrador and south to the Gaspe Peninsula. Western populations migrate from breeding locations to winter along the Pacific coast from the Aleutian Islands south to California, while eastern populations winter on the Atlantic coast from southern Canada to New England. Unique among North American waterfowl, Harlequin Ducks breed and feed in clear, fast-flowing streams and rivers, where they are adept at swimming and diving in white water, as it rages past boulders, and picking insect larvae off the rocky bottom. Called arlequin plongeur in French, the Harlequin Duck is a small duck, weighing between 575 and 650 g, with a short stubby bill, a round white spot behind the eye, a large head with a pronounce nape, a long pointed black tail, and dusky brown underwings. Breeding males are as beautiful as they are unmistakable, with slate blue body colour, rich chestnut sides, white collar and chest bands bordered with black, a white triangle in front of the eyes extending on the forehead into chestnut lines, a bluish black bill, and dark gray legs and feet. Females are brownish gray with a white belly speckled with brown, have faded white patches in front and below the eyes, and yellowish legs and feet. Harlequin Ducks nest preferably around cold, rapidly flowing streams, often surrounded by forests. They feed on animal food exclusively, including mostly crustaceans, mollusks, and insects. Harlequin Ducks first breed in their second year, renew pair bond yearly, lay around 6 eggs incubated for about 30 days, and their young fledge 50 days after hatching. Gulls, jaegers, ravens, and minks can be responsible for some egg and duckling losses. Most Harlequin Ducks occur in western North America, estimated to exceed 170,000 birds. The numbers of Harlequin Ducks nesting in eastern Canada remains unknown; the eastern population is classified as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act .
Dabbling ducks are characterized by their “tipping up” behaviour, with tail pointing upwards out of the water but body and head pointing downwards and submerged, while they use sieve-like projections on the margins of their bill to filter mainly plant food from the water. These species are also known for their agility in flight, including their ability to take-off immediately and almost vertically from water, and on land, where they can walk relatively well (at least for a duck). Dabbling ducks breeding in North America include Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), American Black Duck (Anas rubripes), Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors), Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca), Northern Pintail (Anas acuta), American Wigeon (Anas americana), and Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata) . The distinct and varied breeding plumage of male dabblers (called drakes) makes species identification easy, but females and males in non-breeding plumage are more difficult identify. However, specific features of wing coloration help to distinguish dabblers of either sex at any time of the year.
The Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and the American Black Duck (Anas rubripes) are two species of dabbling ducks that are closely related and very similar in appearance. Mallards are among the most abundant and widespread of North American waterfowl and males in breeding plumage have a distinctive green head. American Black Ducks are less widely distributed than mallards and lack their characteristic green head, but are otherwise similar to mallards in appearance and ecology.
Mallards are the most widely distributed dabbling duck, breeding throughout most of North America from Alaska to northern California and east to Ontario, the Great Lakes, and New England. In Canada, breeding occurs from Yukon, Northwest Territory, and British Columbia eastward to the Hudson Bay coast of Manitoba and James Bay and up to Maritime Provinces. Some Mallards migrate are far south as northern Mexico but many North American populations remain in breeding locations year-round or migrate only short distances, wintering anywhere there is food and open water. Called canard colvert in French, Mallards are one of the largest dabbling ducks, weighing between 1 and 1.3 kg, and are best-known for breeding males’ shiny green head, purple chestnut breast, separated by a white collar contrasting with whitish sides and underparts. Both sexes have a distinctive metallic blue-violet wing patch bordered on both sides by black and white, orange legs and feet, white underwing and tail, and a yellow to orange bill with varying amounts of dark mottling in females. Females are brown with a darker crown and eye stripes contrasting with paler cheeks and chin. Mallards nest in almost any habitat that offers adequate vegetation cover in proximity to shallow-water feeding areas. They can feed on agricultural grain as well as a large variety of natural aquatic plant foods, including some aquatic invertebrates especially in the summer. Mallards breed in their first year, renew pair bonds each year, lay around 10 eggs incubated for about 28 days, and they young fledge 55 days after hatching. In areas where Mallards and American Black Ducks are both present, these two ecologically similar species compete for nest sites and mates, with some mixed courtship groups and hybridization occurring. Predators of eggs and ducklings include crows, skunks, and coyotes. Mallards are extremely abundant in North America with a breeding population estimated at 8.5 million birds .
The American Black Duck has an easterly distribution in North America, limited to eastern forested areas, breeding eastward from Manitoba up to Labrador and Newfoundland and south through the Great Lakes states as far south as coastal North Carolina. In Canada, American Black Ducks are more abundant from Ontario eastward, where they are the most common breeding duck in most areas south of the tree line. Black ducks winter in the southern portion of the breeding range or migrate short distances south to reach the Gulf coast. Called canard noir in French, American Black Ducks are one of the largest dabbling ducks, weighing between 1.1 and 1.3 kg, and are almost entirely brownish black with a darker crown and eye-stripe and slightly paler head and foreneck. Breeding males have a noticeably dark plumage with a brilliant yellow bill. Both sexes have reddish orange legs and feet, white underwings, and a purplish blue wing patch with a narrow white lower edge (lacking the white upper edge visible in Mallards). In contrast to males and Mallards, female American Black Ducks have an olive to greenish gray bill. Black ducks typically nest in wooded areas around marshes, lakes, ponds, and streams and feed mostly on leaves, stems, and roots of aquatic plants, but include slightly more animal foods in their diet than Mallards. Black ducks breed in their first year, renew pair bonds each year, lay around 9 eggs incubated for about 27 days, and their young fledge 55 days after hatching. Crows and raccoons are important egg predators. In areas where American Black Ducks and Mallards are both present, these two ecologically similar species compete for nest sites and mates, with some mixed courtship groups and hybridization occurring. With an estimated North American breeding population of about 500,000 birds, American Black Ducks are much less abundant than Mallards .
Teal are small, fast flying, dabbling ducks often seen in small flocks, swimming on the surface or sweeping by in a seemingly erratic and twisting flight. North American teal include the widespread and common Blue-winged Teal (Anas discors) and Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca), as well the less common Cinnamon Teal (Anas cyanoptera) characterized by a restricted breeding range in the western United States.
The Blue-winged Teal breeds from southern Alaska and Yukon southward to British Columbia and California and eastward to the Atlantic coast from Maritime Provinces to North Carolina. In Canada, Blue-winged Teals breed in greatest numbers within the prairie provinces. They migrate earlier in the season and longer distances than other North American ducks, with most populations wintering in South America. Called sarcelle à ailes bleues in French, the Blue-winged Teal is a small duck, weighing between 350 and 500 g, with a generally brownish body colour, large light blue wingpatch, a dark bill that widens only slightly toward the tip, and yellowish gray legs and feet. Breeding males have a gray-violet head with a white crescent on the face and white rump patches. Females have a chin and throat that appears whitish against the rest of a more brownish face. Blue-winged Teal prefer to nest in small and shallow marshes or meadows of native prairie grassland, avoiding tall cover and steep slopes. Their diet is dominated by the seeds and vegetative parts of aquatic plants, but can include some animal matter, especially in spring. Blue-winged Teal breed in their first year, renew pair bonds each year, lay around 10 eggs incubated for about 25 days, and their young fledge 45 days after hatching. Crows, skunks, ground squirrels, badgers, minks, and foxes are important egg and duckling predators. Blue-winged Teal are one of the most abundant ducks in North America, with the total breeding population estimated at close to 7.5 million birds .
The Green-winged Teal breeds throughout most of temperate North America. Their breeding range includes most of Canada, from Yukon and British Columbia eastward to Labrador, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Nearly all breeding populations migrate to winter areas from coastal Alaska and British Columbia, through western, central, and southern United States and as far south as Mexico. Called sarcelle d’hiver in French, the Green-winged Teal is the smallest North American dabbling duck, weighing between 250 and 450 g, making them very agile in flight. They have a dusky brown body, a glossy green wing patch, whitish underwing, undertail and belly, gray legs and feet, and a narrow black bill. Breeding males have a vertical white bar separating breasts from sides, and a glossy green patch on the otherwise chestnut head. Green-winged Teal generally nest in grassland, sedge meadows, or dry hillsides surrounding small ponds of parklands where they eat mainly seeds and vegetative parts of aquatic plants, but sometimes also invertebrates. Green-winged Teal generally breed at one year of age, renew pair bonds each year, lay around 8 eggs incubated for 22 days, and their young fledge 44 days after hatching. Crows and skunks are important egg predators. In North America, breeding populations of Green-winged Teal are estimated to be close to 3.5 million birds .
The Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) is one of the most widely distributed dabbling ducks in North America and breeds throughout Alaska, eastward across Canada to the Ungava Peninsula, and southward to California and northern Texas. In Canada, it is generally widespread and abundant, except in interior Ontario and Quebec, Newfoundland, and parts of the Maritime Provinces. Some Northern Pintail populations winter in southern parts of the breeding range, while more northerly breeding populations migrate long-distances, including to Central America and northern South America. Called canard pilet in French, the Northern Pintail is a medium size duck, weighing between 0.7 and 1 kg, with a long neck and overall slender and elegant appearance. Breeding males have a a sharply pointed tail with very long tail feathers. In all pintails, the bill, legs, and feet are gray, and the wing patch varies from brownish to coppery green with a white lower edge. Breeding male Northern Pintails have the whitest appearance of all dabbling ducks, with a dark brown head and black undertail that contrasts with a white neck, breasts, underparts, and rump, as well as light gray back, sides, and flanks. Females are mostly brownish, but unlike other female dabblers, the head is darker than the body, there is no obvious eye-stripe or pale patch, and the bill is dark with no trace of yellow or orange. Northern Pintails prefer nesting in open landscapes around large shallow lakes with low shoreline vegetation and abundant submerged plants. Northern Pintails are more likely to dive for food than other dabblers, but they also feed mainly on seeds and vegetative parts of submerged, emergent, and terrestrial plants. They breed in their first year, renew pair bonds yearly, lay around 8 eggs incubated for about 21 days, and their young fledge 42 days after hatching. Common egg and duckling predators include skunks and crows. The North American breeding population of Northern Pintails is estimated at over 3 million birds .
The American Wigeon (Anas americana) is a dabbling duck that breeds in northwestern North America, from Alaska, Yukon, and Mackenzie regions east to Hudson Bay and south to California, Arizona, Colorado, Nebraska, and Dakota. There is infrequent breeding eastward from western Minnesota and only scattered breeding records in southern Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. American Wigeons migrate short to medium distances, with some western populations resident year-round, but most populations migrating to winter along the Pacific coast, from southern Alaska southward to Costa Rica, in southern United States, and along the Atlantic coast from southern New England southward to Central America. Called canard d’Amerique in French, the American Wigeon is a small duck, weighing between 0.7 and 1.3 kg, with a grayish rusty brown body colour, a short bluish gray bill, legs and feet. Breeding males have a glossy green patch behind the eyes and a white forehead. American Wigeons are the only dabbling duck with white patches on the front half of the upperside of their wings; these patches appear in flight as white flashes when the wing is lowered, alternating with flashes of the white abdomen when the wing is raised. They nest around large lakes with limited emergent vegetation and abundant submerged plants. Female and young American Wigeons are seen in open water more often than other dabbling ducks, because they feed on aquatic plants brought to the surface by swans or diving ducks, like canvasbacks and redheads. American Wigeons graze more than other dabbling ducks and feed mainly on aquatic plants, except for ducklings that feed mainly on animal material. American Wigeons reach sexual maturity in the first year of life, renew pair bonds each year, have a clutch size around 9 eggs that are incubated for about 25 days, and fledge young at around 50 days after hatching. Most egg losses are due to crow and skunk predation. The total North American breeding population of American Wigeons is estimated at close to 2.5 million birds .
The Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata) is a dabbling duck, also referred to as a spoonbill, with a broad breeding range across most of North America, including western and interior Alaska southward to California and eastward to the Great Lakes and along the middle Atlantic coast. In Canada, they breed mostly west of Ontario, as far north as the tree line, and including most of British Columbia and Yukon. Some southern breeders are year-round residents or migrate only short distance, while northern breeders migrate long distances to winter along the Pacific, in interior marshes of Mexico, or along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Texas. Called canard souchet in French, Northern Shovelers are a small duck, weighing between 400 and 800 g, with a uniquely long (longer than the head) spoon-shape bill and large powder-blue patches on the forewing. They have brownish underparts, white underwings and tail, and orange legs and feet. Breeding males have a black head with a metallic green shine, and white breast and rump that contrasts with a black undertail and rich chestnut sides. Shovelers preferably nest in prairie marshes around large, shallow lakes with open shores and abundant floating vegetation. In contrast to most other dabblers, Northern Shovelers consume a large amount of aquatic animals, especially crustaceans and insects. They breed in their first year, renew pair bonds yearly, lay around 10 eggs incubated for 23 days, and their young fledge 45 days after hatching. Crows, skunks, and weasels are important egg and duckling predators. The North American breeding population of Northern Shovelers is estimated at over 4 million birds .
Perching Ducks - Wood Duck
The Wood Duck (Aix sponsa), the only North American perching duck, is quite similar in biology to most dabbling ducks except for its unique tree perching and nesting behaviour. Wood Ducks occur in forested areas of western North America, including British Columbia south to California and east to Idaho, and eastern North America, including from eastern North Dakota to Nova Scotia and south to Texas and Florida. In Canada, Wood Ducks are found throughout most of southern Canada, with most extensive breeding ranges are in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick. Almost the entire North American wood duck population winters within the United States, with northerly breeders migrating short distances and southerly breeders remaining as year-round residents. Unique among North American ducks, Wood Ducks often perch on branches overhanging water, feed extensively on fruits, seeds, and nuts from woody plants, and nest in tree cavities. They often use Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) cavities for nesting, but will also readily nest in constructed nest boxes. Within a day of egg hatching, the female Wood Duck flies to the ground and calls to induce the newly hatched ducklings to follow, which they do by climbing to the cavity entrance and leaping to the ground (ducklings have been observed jumping as far 89 m to the ground without injury). The female then leads the ducklings to water, often travelling several kilometers to reach appropriate rearing habitat .
Wood Ducks are a small duck, weighing around 650 g, and are called canard branchu in French. Breeding male Wood Ducks are considered by many to be the most beautiful of North American ducks, with its overall glossy appearance, dark blue-green back, long square tail, burgundy breast and flanks, yellowish sides, black and white head with a long pointed crest, red eyes, and a multicoloured red, yellow, black, and white bill. Wood ducks are also distinguished from other North American ducks by both sexes having sharp claws and a white trailing edge on the outer wing feathers with a bluish sheen near the tips of the mid-wing feathers. In both sexes, the crest is evident, the underwing surface is speckled white, and the abdomen is white. Females also have a glossy look, but with duller brownish colours, and white patches around the eyes and on the chin on an otherwise gray head and crest. Wood Duck sexually mature within the first year, renew pair bonds each year, have a clutch size of around 14 eggs that are incubated for about 30 days, and young are able to fly 60 days after hatching. The most important egg predator is the raccoon and duckling predators include minks, fish, and predatory birds. North American Wood Duck populations have made a remarkable comeback from lows in the early 1900, with recent population estimates totaling over three million birds .
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