Bird Database

American Black Duck

(Anas rubripes)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Short distance




Wetland loss, Human disturbance, hybridization with Mallard

Conservation Actions

Manage waterfowl harvest, Wetland protection

American Black Duck

(Anas rubripes)

The American Black Duck was once the most common duck in the Northeast, but by the 1970s its population had declined by roughly half. In an attempt to reverse this trend, stricter hunting regulations for the species were implemented in 1983, and numbers appear to have stabilized somewhat in the decades since. Even with the effects of hunting moderated, the species still faces two significant threats: habitat loss and competition with the closely-related Mallard. Although black ducks nest in a wide variety of wetlands, from coastal salt marsh to northern bogs, development and agriculture have impacted significant amounts of habitat across their range. This is important during the winter as well, when the bulk of the population spends its time in Mid-Atlantic salt marshes, where rising sea levels are another source of habitat degradation and loss. The good news is that stronger wetland protections have generally reduced much outright habitat loss, although pollution and climate change are ongoing factors.

As for the Mallard, this species was historically absent from much of the black duck’s range but moved east from the Great Plains in the wake of increasing agriculture and urbanization. This sometimes put it in conflict with black ducks, which are less tolerant of altered habitats. At the same time, the species’ co-occurrence led to increased hybridization, although the jury is out on the extent to which this negatively affected black ducks. Either way, Mallards are here to stay, meaning that black ducks will remain relegated to areas with lower human disturbance for the foreseeable future.

In part because they are hunted, American Black Ducks are the focus of constant conservation attention, and most of this currently revolves around habitat. The Atlantic Coast Joint Venture identified it as one of its three focal species and is working to protect or enhance enough coastal habitat to support a million wintering ducks (roughly three times the current population). In New Hampshire, most wintering black ducks occur on Great Bay, where efforts to improve water quality will help the full diversity of water birds that use this estuary.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

American Black Duck
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count