Canvasback Duck

Photo: Wikimedia

Scientific Name: Aythya valisineria

Classification: Game Species

Abundance: Brown area


Species Profile



Canvasback duck-male (Photo: Judy Gallagher)

Canvasback duck-female (Photo: Judy Gallagher)

Additional Information

The canvasback duck (hereafter canvasback) gets its common name from the light gray canvas-colored back of the male, or drake. The canvasback gets its specific name, Aythya valisineria from Vallisneria americana, or wild celery, which is its preferred food during the non-breeding season. When migrating, canvasbacks often fly in an impressive V-shaped formation that resembles a squadron of airplanes at high altitude.

The canvasback’s flight is characterized by rapid wing beats and it is considered one of the fastest of all ducks on the wing. Aside from its coloration, the canvasback is recognizable by its large, wedge-shaped bill and head. The drake canvasback has a chestnut-red head and neck, and black chest highlighted by its light gray back. The hen (female) has a buff-brown head and chest with a brownish-gray back. Immediately after hatching, both sexes have yellow eyes, but after 10 to 12 weeks the eyes begin to turn red. The wings of the hens are brown flecked with white. The males have nearly white wings with brown primary feathers. 

Coastal areas of North Carolina provide some of the best waterfowl habitat on the East Coast (or Atlantic Flyway) for ducks and geese that migrate south. Earlier in the century, canvasbacks wintered in North Carolina in large numbers, especially in the northeastern coastal sounds and rivers. 

Canvasbacks are one of several species of diving ducks, meaning that they dive and swim underwater to get their food. They often dive to depths of 30 feet. The main breeding area for canvasbacks is the prairie pothole region in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and in states such as North and South Dakota. Nesting typically begins in early May. Hens nest over water in deeper prairie potholes, ponds, and marshes. The nest is a large structure constructed of loosely woven reeds and sedges and lined with down. The success rate of canvasback nests varies from year to year, depending on rainfall and other weather conditions, and also to predation of nests and eggs or the hen, by skunks, raccoons and foxes.

Learn more by reading the Canvasback duck species profile.

Seasons / Limits
Youth Waterfowl Day(s)
Extended Falconry Seasons

Additional Info (including license requirements, non-toxic shot requirements, baiting information and various reports)

Permit Hunting Opportunities


There are no reported problems with this species.

Visit the Wildlife Commission's Waterfowl in North Carolina page for more information about management of canvasback ducks in North Carolina.