The Labrador Duck (Camptorhynchus labradorius)
A small sea-duck. Males: wingspan of about 17" (215mm) and weighed about 2 pounds (1 kg). A white head and wings with a black stripe over the crown of the head. A black collar separated the white breast from the white neck. The wings had black primary feathers. Females were slightly smaller, had generally brownish plumage above and lighter below. Their wings were marked with bluish-slate and white. Both male and female bills were black with an orange base. Link to the larger image.
Found along the Atlantic coast from New Brunswick (Labrador ?) to Chesapeake bay. Believed to not stray far from water and possibly pelagic in winter. Seems to have had a very limited range.
Sandy bays and inlets along coastal areas.
The bill with its numerous lamellae suggests a highly specialized diet. It is believed to have fed on mussels, shellfish, other marine invertebrates and possibly seaweed.
Reportedly similar to eider duck nests, large fir twigs lined with down and dry grass. No collected eggs have been definitively attributed to the Labrador duck.
Labrador ducks were fast fliers and good divers. Much more is unknown than known about this duck, the first bird to go extinct after the arrival of Europeans to North America. Authorities look to similar ducks such as the scoters and eider ducks for insights into the Labrador duck's behavior and biology. Labrador ducks were also known as Pied Ducks.
By the time it was first described, the Labrador duck was already rare. Many sea-ducks like the Labrador had flesh that took on the flavor of their diet, even so they did suffer from some market hunting. Never abundant, the last suspected Labrador duck was shot in 1875. Only 42 specimens exist in the world's museums. Its breeding range is thought have been limited, it had a low population and a specialized diet. These factors made it sensitive to the disturbances caused by European settlement of the Atlantic coast.
- The Birds of North America. American Ornithologists Union. 1997. Vol. 8. Number 307.
- Day, David. The Doomsday Book of Animals. 1981. Viking Press. New York. ISBN 0-670-27987-0
- Ehrlich, Dobkin and Wheye. The Birder's Handbook. 1988. Simon & Schuster. New York. ISBN 0-671-65989-8
- World Wildlife Fund Guide to Extinct Species of Modern Times. Walter Beacham, Editor. Vol. 1. 1996. ISBN 0-933833-40-7.