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Above: Canvasbacks in flight by Cam Meukon

How Do I Recognize It?

The male (or drake) Canvasback has a white belly, black chest, whitish back, and a rusty head and neck.  By contrast, the female (or hen) is more subtly coloured, being mostly a mottled pale brown. She also has a white belly, and has a reddish-brown head, neck and chest.  Both sexes have a sloping forehead and a black bill.  Juveniles of both sexes resemble females.  Canvasbacks are large birds, measuring up to 22 inches long.


Does it Migrate?

Most birds leave the province by mid-October, to winter across much of central and southern U.S.A. Some pivotal wintering areas include locations in the lower Mississippi River valley, San Francisco Bay, and locations along the Gulf coast.  Weather permitting, overwintering occurs as far north as the lower Great Lakes region and southern British Columbia.  Central Mexico marks the southern limit of the species’ winter range.  In Manitoba, the main thrust of spring migration begins around mid-April and extends to mid-May.


Where Does It Live?

This species breeds mainly in the prairie parkland region of southern Canada, on lake bays, ponds, deep-water marshes and potholes.  Lower occurrences of breeding have been recorded in the boreal taiga plains as well.

Above: Canvasback by Cam Meukon

Where Can I See It?

During breeding season, the stately Canvasback can be seen across the Minnedosa pothole region, at Whitewater Lake, Oak Hammock Marsh and The Pas.  In fall migration, look for these ducks in places such as Oak Hammock Marsh, Delta Marsh, as well as rivers, lakes and marshes across southern Manitoba.


Conservation Status

Loss of habitat and/or habitat degradation on wintering and breeding grounds are the biggest causes for concern.  The species is under no immediate threat.

Above: Canvasback by Cam Meukon

Did You Know?

Female Canvasbacks often play surrogate mothers to Redhead young, whose females are known to lay eggs in other duck species’ nests.  This is known as nest parasitism.  This can have a negative impact on the host species’ reproductive success.  Canvasback females themselves are not above laying their eggs in other Canvasback nests.