Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Canvasback - Aythya valisineria
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General Comments The Canvasback has experienced continental population declines for several decades. It was formerly a locally common to very common winter resident to bays/sounds and coastal and Tidewater impoundments in the state; our highest counts were in the 1970's. The species is still locally numerous, but flocks number mostly in the tens to rarely the hundreds now. The species is found in wide open waters of shallow bays as well as the larger lakes and impoundments.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank S3N
Global Rank G5
Coastal Plain Winter resident; declining. Uncommon to locally fairly common, mainly along the northern coast and Tidewater area, south to the lower Neuse River; rare to locally uncommon along the southern coast. Generally rare farther inland (now) in winter and migration. Mainly late Oct to early Apr. Peak counts:
Piedmont Winter visitor/resident; declining. Rare to briefly locally uncommon, most numerous along the northeastern edge of the province. Mostly mid-Nov to late Mar. Peak counts: 1,300 to maybe 3,000, Roanoke Rapids Lake, 27 Dec 2008; 300, Lake Benson (Wake), 25 Nov 1966; 300, Brier Creek Reservoir (Wake), 15 Feb 2009.
Mountains Very rare to rare winter visitor, with only about 17 records, nearly all from the southern mountains (Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson, Transylvania). There was a notable influx of the species into the region in late Jan and Feb 2019, including all of the peak counts. Dates range from 22 Oct to 20 Feb. One at Osceola Lake (Henderson) from 22-26 Oct 2022 was the earliest in the province by about a month. Peak counts: 24 on Ecusta Pond (Transylvania), 30 Jan 2019; 19, Lake Osceola (Henderson), 20 Feb 2019; 8, Lake Julian (Buncombe), 31 Jan 2019. Considering the many records for Redhead in the mountains, the Canvasback is mysteriously scarce in the province.
Finding Tips This species can be somewhat difficult to find in most areas. Formerly, it could usually be seen from the causeway across Lake Mattamuskeet, but not in recent years. Somewhat reliable sites are Phelps Lake, the Swan Quarter ferry, North Pond at Pea Island, and Roanoke Rapids Lake (though public access is rather limited).
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Attribution LeGrand[2024-05-08], LeGrand[2024-02-08], LeGrand[2023-03-17]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
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