Diving ducks are associated with large, deep water bodies and are strongly adapted to living on water. These ducks feed by diving, often to considerable depths, consuming a variety of aquatic plants and small animal forms. Therefore, the flavour of their meat differs from that of grain fed puddle ducks.
The canvasback can reach 19 to 24 inches in length. The male has a white body with a black chest and tail. The female's body is a more gray color, with a darker gray chest and tail; both have reddish heads. Flocks are long and V-shaped. The canvasback is considered by some to be the best tasting waterfowl species in North America.
The reduced population in North America has resulted in hunting restrictions in many areas. Few canvasbacks are shot in Saskatchewan so special restrictions are not required.
The redhead is sometimes confused as a canvasback due to the similar coloration of the males. However similar, the redhead's feathers are greyer in color, and its head is not as 'sloped' as the canvasback. Generally this species will feed during the night, and rest on the water during the daytime. The redhead populations have declined due to habitat loss. They are bred extensively in Saskatchewan but are not highly sought by local hunters.
(Aythya marila, Aythya affinis)
The scaup looks similar to the ringneck however it does not have the white ring around its bill. There are two sub-species: the greater and lesser scaup The greater scaup is mainly found in mid-to-northern Canada and its migration is limited to the northern United States. The lesser scaup is one of the most widespread diving ducks in North America. They are found throughout the US and Mexico during winter months, and as far north as the Arctic Tundra in the summer.
The ringneck is named as such because of the subtle purplish ring around the base of its neck. However, it has a much more distinct white ring around its bill close to the tip that is also unique to the species. Its range covers most of Canada and the United states, and down into Mexico. The ring-necked duck is not common in Saskatchewan.
(Bucephala clangula, Bucephala islandica)
The Goldeneye is a medium-sized duck with a large head. There are two species: the common goldeneye has a greenish-black head with bright oval white patch on its face at the base of the bill. The Barrow's goldeneye has a purplish-black head with a crescent-shaped white patch in the same location. The goldeneye is one of the last birds to migrate south in the fall. They will often migrate as the water starts to freeze, and will only go as far south as required to access open water.
The bufflehead is considered to be the smallest diving duck in North America. Its distinct color pattern is unmistakable. Due to its small size, it is often able to take a springing leap into the air to take flight. It is also one of the few ducks that nests in trees. The bufflehead is a late fall migrant, occasionally remaining all winter when open water is available.