To the hunter, the mere mention of the canvasback duck conjures up the sight of rafts of a hundred decoys, grouped around a sink box or skillfully camouflaged duck boat, in open water, with cold, windy, dreary weather and flights of canvas-backs streaking across the sky.
Colored and shaped somewhat like the redhead, except for the larger shape that is angular instead of round, the canvasback sports a big heavy bill. Their tails are black. The basic body and wings are canvas-grey in color. The breast is black and the head and neck the typical amber-cinnamon. Seen together, they are readily distinguishable from the smaller redhead.
It is exclusively a North American species and is not found even as a straggler in any other country. Its numbers and availability have made it famous among duck hunters on both coasts, the heaviest concentration being on the East Coast from New England south across Georgia, skipping Florida and along the Gulf Coast down into Mexico. The West Coast has a lesser flight that extends up into British Columbia.
They nest from Utah and Nebraska up into the prairie provinces of Western Canada using all three flyways for their migrations north and south. The Great Lakes region gets a late migration in the fall and much hunting is done for them in that section.
Quite often a smart hunter will allow the first flock to "sit in" with the blocks in order to attract a larger flock. When they light, they look over the blocks and then disregard them entirely, not being perturbed that they are fakes. Unless something scares them, they will stay for a while, and at a given signal from one of the leaders will all take flight at the same instant.
They have maintained their numbers, despite bad conditions in the nesting grounds due to low or non-existent water. They have fared much better than the redhead duck, which is now off the shooting list, yet the canvasback nests in the same general areas.
Their numbers have diminished in the past few years, as have almost all the ducks, but seem to indicate no trouble in the near future.
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