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Scientific Name:

Aythya Valisineria




Lakes, ponds, estuaries, and marshes with cattails and reed grasses


Canvasbacks can be found throughout much of North America, they may migrate seasonally spending the breeding season in the Northwest and the winters in the southeast.


Least Concern (IUCN Red List)

This species is


to the Truckee Meadows.


Canvasbacks are the largest of the diving ducks weighing from 2 to 3.5 pounds, up to 22 inches in length, and having a wingspan of up to 35 inches. In addition to their size, the slope of their head distinguishes them from other ducks, giving Canvasbacks the nickname “the aristocrat of ducks”. Male canvasbacks have a bright white body, a black chest, and a deep maroon neck and red eyes, while the females are slightly smaller with dark eyes and overall brown and gray plumage. Part of their latin name “valisineria'' refers to wild celery, (Vallisneria Americana), a long grass-like submerged vegetation, which is the favorite food of Canvasbacks and other diving ducks. In addition to wild celery rhizomes, Canvasbacks will eat other aquatic plants and tubers, mussels, small fish and insects. Similar to other diving ducks, Canvasbacks need a running start to take off from the water, however they are some of the fastest ducks in flight and can fly at 56 mph.

Fast Facts:

  • Canvasbacks rarely leave the water; they sleep on the water with their bill tucked into their wings and they often build nests that float on the water and are tethered to shore with reeds, cattails and aquatic grasses.

  • Redhead ducks and Ruddy ducks will sometimes lay some of their eggs in the nest of a Canvasback, this will result in Canvasbacks laying fewer eggs. However, Canvasbacks will also lay some of their eggs in the nests of other ducks. It would seem ducks have heard the old saying “don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”



Regina Hockett (research & content)

Erin Larsen (editor)

Last Updated:

March 27, 2024 at 1:48:22 AM

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