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Posts Tagged ‘Canvasback duck’

The long sloping shape of the bills of these ducks in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge indicated to me that they are Canvasbacks ducks (Aythya valisineria). Most of the time I rely primarily on colors when trying to identify birds, but during the non-breeding season, many ducks share the same subdued colors, especially when viewed from a distance. This was a rare case when a single distinctive characteristic—in this case the bill—was enough for me to identify the birds with a reasonable degree of confidence.

According to Wikipedia, the duck’s common name is based on early European inhabitants of North America’s assertion that its back was a canvas-like color. In other languages it is just a white-backed duck; for example in French, morillon à dos blanc, or in Spanish, pato lomo blanco.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was observing the osprey couple on the Potomac River this past weekend, I spotted an unusual-looking duck of a species that I had never seen before. One of my fellow photographers said that he was pretty sure that it was a Canvasback duck (Aythya valisineria) and I couldn’t disagree, having no idea what a Canvasback duck looked like.

The duck was a pretty good distance away and I was looking through my telephoto lens when it decided to take off from the water. I don’t think that the duck was aware of our presence, for it initially flew toward us and parallel to the shore before veering off into the center of the river. I was able to track the duck pretty well and got some in-flight shots, including my two favorites that I am posting.

I am not one hundred percent sure of the identification and would welcome a confirmation or correction, as appropriate, from someone with more experience in identifying bird species.

canvasback_flight_blog canvasback_flight2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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