Laysan ducks are brown with a bright green-blue to purple speculum (the feathers on the secondary wing feathers), and have a white area of feathers around their eyes. The male duck has darker brown face, and the head sometimes is iridescent green. Males have a blue-green bill with black spots along the upper mandible (bill). The female usually has more white around the head and neck, and has a dull brownish yellow bill. Both sexes have orange legs and feet.
The endangered Laysan duck is considered the rarest native waterfowl in the United States. They once were widespread across the Hawaiian Islands, but by 1860, they ceased to exist anywhere except Laysan Island, part of the Hawaiian Islands National Wildlife Refuge. As part of an effort to ensure recovery of this endangered species, 42 wild ducks made a 750-mile Pacific voyage from Laysan to Midway Atoll in 2004 and 2005. The re-establishment of a second population at Midway reduces the risk of extinction from a catastrophic event stripping Laysan Island, such as a hurricane or avian disease.
Nests are built from deadgrass, rootlets, and down, and are well concealed under native bunchgrass and often hidden in grass clumps covered with vines. Four to six pale ivory eggs are laid and incubation lasts 28 to 29 days. They typically choose nest sites far from lake and wetlands. Females tend to nest in their daytime home ranges.
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Until 2011, the Nihoa Millerbird was found only on Nihoa Island. Today, it thrives on Laysan Island due to translocation efforts by the USFWS and American Bird Conservancy.