Waterfowl Identification

Canvasbacks, Aythya valisineria, can be confused with Redheads. Drakes of both species have a reddish head, black chest, black under the tail and pale sides and back. The Canvasback drake's side and back are whiter and lighter than Redhead drakes. Also the Canvasback is larger and has a very distinctive head with its forehead sloping straight down to its long black bill and a distinctive red eye. The hen also has a long black bill with a sandy brown head and pale body.
Image comparing drake and hen/UISFWS

Normally late to start south, canvasbacks migrate in lines and irregular V's. In feeding areas, compact flocks fly in indefinite formations. Their wingbeat is rapid and noisy; their speed is the swiftest of all our ducks.

Feeding behavior is highly variable. In some areas they feed at night and spend the day rafted up in open waters; in other areas they feed inshore mornings and evenings. On the water, body size and head shape distinguish them from scaups and redheads.

Length: 22"
Weight: 3 lbs.

Image comparing fulvous and Black-bellied whistling ducks wings/USFWS


 Distribution Map

Similar Species

In Flight
In flight illustration/USFWS In flight illustration/USFWS In flight illustration/USFWS

Drakes croak, peep, and growl; hens have a mallard-like quack.

Last Updated: November 14, 2018