American black ducks migrate to Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge in the fall from their breeding grounds in eastern Canada. They arrive in October and remain until February. They reside in the moist soil units and marshes on the refuge and in the Bay and River surrounding the refuge. American black ducks are dabbling ducks that tip up instead of dive when they forage. They eat aquatic plants, invertebrates, and occasionally small fish in shallow water. They also fly into agricultural fields to feed on waste corn and grain. They flock with other “puddle ducks” such as Gadwall and Mallards.
American Black Ducks hide in plain sight in shallow wetlands of eastern North America. They look quite similar to female Mallards. However, they have dark chocolate-brown flanks, pale gray-brown heads, pale grayish faces, and olive-yellow bills. Females tend to be slightly paler than males, with duller olive bills. In flight, the underwings are bright white. The secondary feathers are iridescent purple without white borders. American black ducks are 21 to 23 inches long, have a wingspan of 34 to 37 inches, and weigh 27 to 58 ounces. They are about the same size as mallard and slightly larger than a gadwall.
American black ducks breed mostly in freshwater wetlands throughout northeastern North America, including beaver ponds, brooks lined by speckled alder, shallow lakes with reeds and sedges, bogs in boreal forests, and wooded swamps. They may also nest in saltmarshes. They mostly spend the winter in saltwater wetlands, but also in beaver ponds, flooded timber, agricultural fields, and riverine habitats. The female builds the nest on her own, digging with her feet and bill in leaf litter or soil to form a basin 7 to 8 inches across and 1.5 inches deep. While laying eggs, she adds plant material gathered within reach of the nest, including grass, twigs, leaves, stems, and conifer needles
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Birders flock to Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge in search of the secretive King Rail. This bird is elusive and prefers very specific wetlands habitat.