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American Black Duck (Identification)

American Black Duck from side

American Black Duck – Length: 23 inches, wing span: 35 inches

Closely related to the Mallard and the Mottled Duck, the American Black Duck occasionally hybridizes with other duck species as well. Migration is nocturnal in American Black Ducks and involves relatively short movements from breeding to wintering ranges in the eastern U.S.

While American Black Ducks can take off nearly vertically from water without a paddling start, their relatively large, heavy bodies and wide wings result in slower wing beats than in many smaller ducks. Black Ducks defend territories against Mallards, and vice versa.

American Black Ducks and Mallards hybridize often.  Female hybrids are very difficult to identify.  Mallards seem to be replacing the American Black Duck in many areas.

For males, dark body contrasts with lighter head. Bill is yellow on the male. Purple speculum edged with black, may show thin white edge on trailing edge.

Female American Black Duck from side

The bill on females is an olive green, sometimes with dark flecks. Dark markings generally not as extensive as on the female Mallard, which has an orange bill marked with black. Photograph by Glenn Bartley.

American Black Duck female

Female American Black Duck. Note the dark body and olive-colored bill. Photograph by the U.S.F.W.S.

American Black Duck female

Female American Black Duck. Darker than female Mallard. Juvenile and male Mallards in eclipse plumage can have olive bills. Photograph by Glenn Bartley.

American Black Duck female in flight

The pale wing linings are in sharp contrast to the darker sections of the underwing. The contrast is generally more distinctive than in female Mallard. Photograph Peter Colen.

American Black Duck female in flight

Female in flight. Photograph by the U.S.F.W.S.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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