Wild Ducks -
The best known varieties of wild ducks are the Canvasback, Mallard, Redhead, Ruddy, Green-winged Teal, Blue-winged Teal, Pintail, Black, Grey, Widgeon and Wood. See Canvasback, Mallard and Ruddy.
The epicurean value of the cooked wild duck depends principally upon its diet during life. The delicious flavor of the Canvasback is attributable to its feeding principally upon the eel grass called "Wild celery," which grows plentifully on the Chesapeake shores and along the Great Lakes and western rivers. The proof of this statement is in the fact that the Canvasback when found in parts where the wild celery does not grow, offers no choicer flesh than the more ordinary members of the wild duck family.
The delicacy of the flesh of the other varieties named is due to their feeding principally on grain, aquatic plants, small mollusks, etc., avoiding the fish diet which gives the rank taste to the Merganser duck.
The last named, the Merganser - also variously known as the Sheldrake or Saw Bill - should always be avoided. Its adherence to a fish diet makes its flesh rank and unpleasant. It may be known by its hooked and saw-toothed bill.
The descriptive items of plumage given in the following paragraphs refer, be it understood, only to especially characteristic markings - a fully detailed description of the elaborate costumes of the wild ducks of American habitat would require a good-sized volume exclusively devoted to the subject. Furthermore, in some varieties the plumage varies considerably with the season.
The Canvasback takes its name from the plumage of its back - of ashy white, marked with zigzag black lines. It is further distinguished by a very short bill, and a rather long narrow head sloping back from the bill. The crown of the head is a rich chestnut color, with parts nearly black. The average market size is from five to six pounds a pair, sometimes going as high as eight pounds. The female is somewhat smaller than the male.
The Mallard is the ancestor of a majority of our domestic ducks of colored plumage. The head and neck of the male are a glossy green and the back brown and grey, shading to black, with Blue and white markings on the wings. The female is principally dark brown and buff. The average market weight is five pounds a pair, though it often goes higher.
The Red-head resembles the Canvasback in general appearance, but it averages a little smaller and it also differs from it in several details - the black and white lines on the back are nearly equal in width, giving a silvery appearance; the head is well rounded instead of sloping back from the bill, and there is no black in its coppery chestnut crown. The upper part of the female is a greyish, mottled-looking brown.
The Ruddy is again smaller than the Red-head. The crown of the head and neck are glossy black and the sides of the head are dull white. The upper part of the body is encircled by a band of red brown and the lower part of the back is white with brown bars. It is also distinguished by the stiffness of its tail quills. The upper part of the female is a grey-brown.
The Green-Winged Teal is one of the smallest of the wild duck family. The head and neck are chestnut color with green on the sides of the head; the upper back and sides are marked with waving black and white lines, and the lower parts are dark grey-brown. The wings are distinguished by the green patches which give the bird its name. The upper part of the female is mottled brown, with head and neck streaked with light reddish-brown.
The Blue-Winged Teal is a little larger than the Green-Winged. The head and neck are dark grey with a white crescent between the eyes, and the back and wings reddish-brown with purple tints. The female is brown and buff in colors.
The Pintail is so named because of its long greenish-black tail feathers. The head and throat are of greenish-brown, the neck is especially long and slender, the back is marked with waving black lines and the breast and under parts are white. The upper part of the female is mottled grey, yellow and brown. The tail is shorter than that of the male but the central feathers are sharp-pointed.
The Black Duck is about the same size as the female Mallard. The head is a rich brown and the upper part of the body dark, rather dull brown.
The Grey Duck has a head streaked with black or brown, the upper part of the back a brownish-grey and the lower part changing to black. The female is smaller and darker.
The Widgeon has a black of grey-brown mixed with black and a head white or buff on top and green on the sides. The female is smaller and darker.
The Wood Duck is a bird of such elaborate plumage that it would be difficult to name any one or two points as particularly distinguishing it. It is so beautiful that many sportsmen advocate its complete and entire protection as a bird of plumage.
Arround Wild Ducks in The Grocer's Encyclopedia