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The Ivory Bill·Extinct Birds

Labrador Duck, Camptorhynchus labradorius

The Extinct Labrador Duck

The Labrador Duck is an extinct species of duck that was native to North America. It was last recorded in 1878 and is considered one of the few bird species to have gone extinct in North America in recent times. Although limited information is available about this species, here is what is known about its natural history:

The Labrador Duck was a medium-sized sea duck, measuring about 45 centimeters (18 inches) in length. It had a unique appearance, characterized by a thick neck, a stout bill, and a rounded head. The males and females had similar plumage, which consisted of a dark brownish-black body with white markings on the head and neck.

It had a specialized bill that was adapted for feeding on hard-shelled mollusks, making it different from other sea duck species. It also had a distinctive appearance with its dark body and contrasting white head and neck markings. Sadly, the Labrador Duck’s limited range, specific habitat requirements, and possibly overhunting by humans contributed to its rapid decline and eventual extinction.

The Labrador Duck was primarily found along the Atlantic coast of North America, particularly in the northeastern regions, including Labrador in Canada and parts of the United States. It preferred coastal habitats, including bays, estuaries, and shallow coastal waters.

Labrador Ducks perched on ice in coastal Newfoundland, Canada.

As a sea duck, the Labrador Duck was adapted for foraging in marine environments. It fed mainly on mollusks, such as mussels, clams, and other bivalves. It would dive underwater to search for these prey items and use its specialized bill to extract them from their shells.

Little is known about the nesting habits of the Labrador Duck. It is believed to have nested in remote areas of the Canadian Arctic and subarctic regions, potentially on islands or along secluded coastlines. The specific details about their nest construction and locations are not well-documented.

The Labrador Duck likely laid a clutch of eggs, similar to other duck species. The number of eggs per clutch is not precisely known. Incubation and raising of the young were probably carried out by the female, as is the case with most ducks. The incubation period, duration of parental care, and details about the fledging process remain unclear.

The Labrador Duck was known to migrate during the winter months to more southerly locations. It likely utilized coastal habitats along the Atlantic coast, including bays, inlets, and open waters, where it could find suitable feeding grounds.

The Labrador Duck’s limited range and specific habitat requirements made it a vulnerable species. Habitat loss from coastal development and reduction of food sources due to expansion of shellfish industries and overharvesting of their food sources were their primary threats. Although their meat did not sell well in markets due to its fishy taste, following a reduction in their numbers, hunting appears to have been the final nail in the coffin for Labrador Ducks.

Conservation awareness and regulations were not well-developed at that time. By the time the species was recognized as endangered, it was too late. The last confirmed sighting of Labrador Ducks was in 1875.