It is migration time for ducks. One of the stops during their spring migration is along the Mississippi River. There are tens of thousands of ducks that travel along that area every day. A great place to photograph the migration is along Lock and Dam 13 in Fulton, Illinois. The last time I was up there I was able to capture a shot of this male Canvasback Duck.
The head and chest of a male canvasback duck is chestnut-red. It has a white back and black rump and tail. The bill is black and the canvasback has blue-gray legs and feet. The canvasback’s eyes are red in the spring and will be duller in the winter. The female’s head and neck are light brown with the chest being a darker brown. The back and sides are gray with the tail having the same dark coloring as the chest. As with the male, the female’s feet and legs are blue-gray and her bill is black. Canvasbacks have large webbed feet that help them to dive for food and make them graceful swimmers. On land their movements are slow and clumsy.
Canvasbacks spend much of their time in the water and feed almost exclusively by diving (although they will occasionally feed on the surface). They dive to a depth of about 2 meters but occasionally with dive to as much as 9 meters. They spend 10-20 seconds underwater looking for plants, roots, insects and small crustaceans to feed on.
Early in the spring canvasbacks will form pairs and they will travel to a nesting site, usually the female’s nesting site from the previous year. The female builds a bulky nest in vegetation or a mat of floating dead plants. She will lay 9-10 eggs and they hatch in about 24 days. The male will abandon the female during the incubation of the eggs. The chicks are brown with a yellow underbelly and are ready to fledge in 63-77 days.