The American black duck, commonly known as the black duck, is migratory and has a wide geographic range. American black ducks breed from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, west to the Mississippi River and north through the eastern Canadian boreal forest (Bellrose 1976). The winter range extends from the Rio Grande River on the Texas coast, northeast to Lake Michigan, east to Nova Scotia, south to Florida, and west to Texas (Wright 1954).
American black ducks arrive on their wintering habitats between September and early December and remain there until February to April (Bellrose 1976). Their preferred habitat varies considerably through the wintering range. Habitat use appears related to food availability, freedom from disturbance, weather, and often upon the presence of large bodies of open water. These interrelated elements are essential for meeting the energy demands and other nutritional requirements of black ducks in response to the rigors of cold weather and migration.
In the Atlantic Flyway, winter populations of American black ducks concentrate in marine and estuarine wetlands (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 1979). They use salt marshes and small tidal bays for feeding and loafing areas. In wintering areas north of Chesapeake Bay, American black ducks frequently feed on tidal flats and rest in emergent wetlands or on ice-free bays, rivers, and coastal reservoirs. In the Chesapeake bay area, migrant and wintering American black ducks occupy a wide variety of habitats (Stewart 1962). They strongly favor brackish bays with extensive adjacent agricultural lands. Estuarine bays, coastal salt marshes, tidal fresh marshes, and adjacent impoundments receive high usage. American black ducks also concentrate in forested wetlands in and adjacent to estuaries in the South Atlantic Flyway, especially in Virginia and North Carolina.