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  Diving Ducks
All ducks need a wetland and open water habitat. Diving ducks are found in the larger, deeper lakes and rivers, where they can dive deeply for food and to escape danger, and where they have running room to launch their flight. Their diet consists of water plants, seeds, fish, and aquatic invertebrates such as mollusks.

Diving Ducks Size Identifying marks Migration figures

Ring-necked Duck - (Aythya collaris)
12" long, 28" wingspan purple head with chestnut neck ring, black breast, gray flanks Peak year was 1949 (800,000); down to 75,000 1958-60 on Illinois River

Lesser Scaups - (Aythya affinis)
12" long, 29" wingspan yellow eyes, purplish head, black breast, whitish speckled body Peak year was 1949 (2 million); fell below 50,000 in Illinois River by 1964.

Canvasback Duck - (Aythya valisineria)
15" long 34" wingspan red eyes, reddish head, neck, light gray body, black tail coverts Peaked in 1953 (350,000); fell to below 5,000 by 1964 on Illinois River

Redhead Duck - (Aythya americana)
14.5" long 33" wingspan yellow eye, red head, neck, blue bill with white ring and black tip Peak years of 1954-56; 15,000 to 40,000.

Feeding Habits and changing Populations
In the past, an abundance of food attracted large numbers of ducks to the Illinois River Valley. Ring-necked, lesser scaups, canvasback, and redhead ducks dove to the bottom of lakes to gather small snails and fingernail clams, and also freshwater plants and their seeds. Mallards, on the other hand, ate seeds from moist-soil plants near the edge of lakes and acorns and pecans in the flooded bottomland timber.

During the past three decades, food supplies for diving ducks have nearly disappeared, and redhead ducks have largely abandoned backwater lakes along the Illinois. Mallards still return because game managers supply seed and grain and refuges from hunters.

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