Boreal Birds
300+ species, billions of birds rely on Canada's boreal forest as critical breeding grounds
© Calibas/Wikimedia Commons (CC 2.5)

Canvasback pair

Canvasback
Aythya valisineria
Duck-like Birds | Family: Ducks and Geese, Anatidae

An estimated 19% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.

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Overview

Inhabitants of large prairie marshes during the summer, these wary birds usually spend the winter on large lakes, bays, and estuaries. A major item in their diet is wild celery, which gives their flesh a rich taste; they are generally regarded as the best-tasting of North American waterfowl. In recent years their numbers have declined drastically, chiefly because of the draining of the large marshes they require to breed. Where they are still relatively numerous, their long, V-shaped flocks are a striking sight as they move from one feeding ground to another.

Description

19-24" (48-61 cm). Male has a whitish body, black chest, and reddish head with low forehead. Long bill gives head a distinctive sloping profile. Female grayish, with sandy-brown head. At a distance male Canvasbacks can be distinguished from similar Redheads by their white bodies, the male Redhead's body being largely gray.

Voice

Males grunt or croak; females quack.

Nesting

7-10 greenish eggs in a floating mass of reeds and grass anchored to stems of marsh plants.

Habitat

Nests on marshes; winters on lakes, bays, and estuaries.

Range/Migration

Breeds from Alaska south and east to Nebraska and Minnesota. Winters in coastal and interior West from British Columbia south and in East from Massachusetts south to Gulf Coast and in Mississippi Valley.