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< >  Anas rubripes - American black duck (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

North American black duck
Black duck
Black mallard
Dunkelente (German)
Canard noiratra (French)
Canard obscur (French)
Anade sombrio (Spanish)
Anade sombrio americano (Spanish)
Pato negro (Spanish)
Zwarte Eend (Dutch)
Svartand (Swedish)
Anas platyrhynchos rubripes

Names for newly-hatched

Duckling, Downy.

Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases


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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B1, B2, B3, B5, B8, B19, B25, B26, B27.

Aviculture references:
B7, B29, B30, B40, B94, B128.w1
D1, D8

Other References

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques


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Aviculture information


General Information:
  • Dabbling Ducks are generally hardy, easy to maintain and easy to breed. Shelter may be required by some of the smaller species in winter. They should be provided with cover (including marginal pond cover) and loafing areas as well as water. A pen which is 50% water is suggested. The water may be shallow (i.e. no more than two feet deep is required), and muddy areas for dabbling in are also appreciated. These ducks are generally good in mixed collections, although the smaller and quieter species may be bullied. Territorial disputes between ducks of the same species may be avoided by keeping only one pair of each species in an enclosure, unless the area is very large. For a single pair of ducks a pen are of 50 to 100 square metres, depending on the size of duck, should be provided.
  • A diet based on wheat and pellets is suggested, with maintenance pellets changed to breeders pellets for the breeding season. Bread and greenfood are also appreciated. Grit should always be available, with soluble grit (e.g. oystershell grit) as a calcium source when breeding.
  • Most species are ground nesters and both close ground cover and ground level nest boxes should be provided. Hand-rearing is generally preferred, as these ducks are generally poor parents in captive conditions, particularly in enclosures shared with other waterfowl. These ducks are prone to hybridization, particularly with closely related species, which should be kept apart from one another.

(B7, B29, B30, B40, B94, B128.w1, D1)

Species-specific information:

  • American black ducks should be kept in an enclosure containing water, cover, and loafing areas. These ducks are similar to Anas platyrhynchos - Mallard, but less easily bred in captivity.
  • They may use a wide variety of natural and artificial nest sites and normally lay March to June.
  • Hybridise with related species including Anas platyrhynchos - Mallard; should be kept separate form closely related (mallard-type) species.

(B29, B97, B128.w2).

Aviornis UK Ringing Scheme recommended average ring size: L 11.0mm (D8).

Management Techniques

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length 53-61cm (B1).
Adult weight General About 1150-1350g (B1).
Male Average 1330g, (B3); mean 2.7 lbs. (B8).
Female Average 1160 (B3); mean 2.5 lbs. (B8).
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate --

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Adult Bill Male Yellow with black nail.
Variations (If present) Female: olive with black nail and culmen markings.
Eyes (Iris) Male Brown.
Variations(If present) --
Juvenile Bill Grey-yellow.
Eyes (Iris) Brown.

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Adult Male Red-orange.
Variations (If present) Female: brown-orange.

Eclipse: bill more olive.

Juvenile Brownish.

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Adult Male Head and neck pale buff with fine black streaking, black eyeline, blackish crown and hindneck. Whole body black-brown with narrow buff edge to feathers, strongest markings on breast and flanks.

Wing dark except for secondaries blue-purple with black base and tips; variable very fine buff/white extreme tips sometimes produce fine white back edge to speculum.

Variations (If present) Female: As male but head and neck greyer with more streaking, speculum bluer.

Eclipse: head and neck darker, more streaking.

Juvenile Similar to female, overall brown, more streaked.

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

General: Upperparts dark brown, including breast band , narrow eyestreak and small ear spot. Underparts and markings yellow (similar to mallard Anas platyrhynchos).
Bill: Grey.
Feet: Grey.

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Reproductive Season

Time of year Begins March/April.
No. of Clutches Will re-nest if first clutch unsuccessful

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Nest placement and structure

Nest concealed in vegetation, in tree cavities or in tree forks, lined with plant material and down.

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average 7-12 (B1)
Range 1-17 (B1); 7-12 (B8).
Egg Description Cream to buff or greenish (B3, B8). Size: 58 x 40mm, weight: 63g (B3).

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26-29 days (B1, B8).

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About 60 days (B1); 49-56 days (B8).

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Sexual Maturity

Males One year old.
Females One year old.

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Feeding Behaviour

Adults Probes, dabbles and up-ends in shallows, occasionally dives, also grazes.
Newly-hatched --

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Parental Behaviour

Nest-building Nest as solitary pairs or in loose groups.
Incubation By female.
Newly-hatched Tended by female only.

Female remains with brood until fledging.

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Social Behaviour

Intra-specific Gregarious outside the breeding season.
Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour

Seasonal pair bonds. Males may stay with females for part or occasionally the whole of incubation.

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Predation in Wild


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Activity Patterns

Remain in the northern breeding areas until feeding waters freeze over.
Circadian --

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Natural Diet


Mixed diet: seeds and vegetative parts aquatic and crop plants, also invertebrates (insects, molluscs, crustaceans).

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Normal North America: eastern Canada from Manitoba to Newfoundland, southward to eastern USA (as far as North Carolina)

Partially migratory and dispersive.

Northern birds migrate southward to winter as far south as Atlanta and Texas.

Occasional and Accidental

Vagrant to Korea, Puerto Rico and western Europe, especially Britain.



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Brackish (preferred) and fresh waters, with some tree cover. Larger open lagoons and coasts used outside breeding season.

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Intraspecific variation


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Conservation Status

Wild Population -

Declined considerably since the 1950s (B1).

CITES listing --
Red-data book listing --
Threats Competition with and hybridisation with Anas platyrhynchos - mallard, also loss of preferred wooded habitats and hunting pressure (B8).

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Captive Populations

Reasonably represented in collections, but not particularly popular (B8).

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