A large, fast-flying diving duck, the canvasback is prized by hunters. While canvasback hunting seasons have been closed and bag limits reduced in the past, the canvasback population is now at high levels in many states. In the fall, they sometimes gather in large numbers on north-central Minnesota lakes.
General description: The canvasback is a large diving duck that has a sloping bill and is found on larger bodies of water. Drake (male) canvasbacks have red eyes, cinnamon-colored heads and brilliant white backs.
Length: About 21 inches.
Weight: About 2 1/2 pounds.
Color: Males have reddish brown (or cinnamon-colored) heads, white backs, and light gray sides and bellies. Females have tan heads, dark brown breasts and cream sides and bellies.
Sounds: A deep staccato purring from the hen and a "whoo" call from the drake.
Canvasbacks are early nesters, usually the first week of May. On average, eight eggs per nest hatch, and the majority of ducklings survive. Young ducks are fully feathered in eight weeks. Canvasback nests are built from cattails or bulrushes and float on the water.
Sago pondweed, wild celery tubers, wild rice and aquatic insects.
Mink, raccoons, hawks and owls.
Habitat and range
Large lakes, potholes and river systems. The highest concentrations of nesting canvasbacks are found on the prairies of western Canada. Each November, canvasbacks fly south across Minnesota to the waterways of Louisiana, Texas, Florida and North Carolina.
Population and management
Each year, canvasbacks make up about one to three percent of all the ducks harvested in Minnesota. In 1999, Minnesota hunters harvested 8,600 canvasbacks.
Canvasbacks respond well to the large decoy spreads set out by waterfowl hunters.