Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Canvasback, a fine botanical duck

A handsome drake Canvasback loafs in frigid Lake Erie waters, off Miller Road Park in the city of Avon Lake, Ohio. I was there bright on and early on the morning of February 20. I recall the temperature upon arrival was about 9 F, and brisk winds off the lake made it seem much colder.

The "Cans" didn't care. Hundreds were present, and these hardy diving ducks thought nothing of the icy cold and near-freezing water. Ice had formed on some of the ducks in the drowsing rafts.

The botanical proclivities of this animal is noted in its scientific name: Aythya valisineria. The specific epithet stands for the genus of eel-grass, or wild-celery, Vallisneria americana, a favored aquatic plant food source of Canvasbacks. Famed early ornithologist Alexander Wilson named this animal, but misspelled vallisneria.

Inaccurate nomenclature aside, the big ski slope-nosed Canvasback is one of my favorite birds. Some people find the Canvasback to be excellent eating, although there are differing opinions on its tastiness. In the markets around New Orleans in the mid-1830's, Canvasback meat was a coveted delicacy and a pair of birds sold for $2.00. That'd be about $55.00 in today's dollars - a whopping price even by current standards! Personally, I think the Canvasbacks are worth far more alive, in the wild, and on the water than on someone's dinner plate.


Vireo said...

Very interesting about the misspelling.

Bill McDonald said...

Curious about the common name. According to Ducks.org, English settlers along the Atlantic coast thought its feathers looked like white canvas fabric.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim. Male w/mate Yoctangy park, Chillicothe last couple weeks.

Jim McCormac said...

Hi Bill, yes, I believe that is correct.

Woody Meristem said...

Spring has arrived on the backs of migrating waterfowl with more to come.

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