Labrador duck is now long gone

The Labrador duck was a medium-sized one—smaller than a Mallard, but bigger than a Goldeneye.
None of you have ever seen this duck in the wild, though. And you never will. It is extinct.
As far as looks go, this duck was quite a pretty one. It was all black and white. The main body was black, including the underparts, back, tail, and so on. The head and neck were white, as was the major part of its wings.
It also had a narrow black stripe on the top of its head, and narrow black collar around its white neck.
Quite a good-looking bird!
Females generally were brown, with pale greyish bits on their cheeks and neck, and on the breast.
We are not quite sure where its full breeding range was. We do know it bred around the shores of Labrador (which, in those days, was a great deal larger than it is today).
This duck had a rather odd beak. It was fairly long, and broadened out at the tip. People seem to think that was because of its food. Records say it frequented sandy bays and shoals, where it scrabbled in the mud for small shellfish (clams, mussels, and so on).
We don’t really know what their nests were like. There are a few descriptions of what were thought to be nests, but those are really just “probable” nests.
Before there were any laws about hunting, it was quite common for wild game of all birds to be sold in the markets. Sparrows, robins, and plovers all were put on display and sold. Ducks and geese, of course, were in quite high demand.
The Labrador ducks were not considered to be very good to eat, probably because of their diet. In fact, there are quite a few stories of Labrador ducks being hung up in the market, but nobody wanted them, so they rotted and were thrown away.
Why did they disappear? We don’t really know. They were hunted, along with almost all other birds. Their nests were robbed of eggs. Many were probably shot for their feathers, and especially for their down, which was quite thick.
No one has ever brought forward that they disappeared because of any natural causes.
In the winter, these ducks used to sort of drift south a bit to Nova Scotia, New Jersey, and Chesapeake Bay. Hunting went on all winter, as well as all the rest of the year, too.
The Labrador duck was never present in large numbers anywhere. During a period of about 20 years, it disappeared from its winter range and from the markets, too.
The last one was shot on Long Island in 1875. There now are about 40 specimens in various museums; some stuffed birds, and some only skins.
So the Labrador duck disappeared. The ceaseless persecution for meat, feathers, and eggs did it in. It joins about 50 or so other birds around the world which are gone forever.
Before hunting laws were brought in, we were not kind to the birds and animals. When the white man arrived on this continent, the countryside was simply full of wildlife of all kinds—many of which are now gone, or nearly so.
The most famous extinction of all is that of the Passenger Pigeon. At one time numbering up to 20 billion or so, it disappeared forever in 1914.
The Bison, once about 50 million, went down to less than 1,000 in about 1800. The Heath Hen, and the Carolina Parroquet, have gone. And there are many on the very brink.
The Black-footed Ferret, the Wolverine, and in our own day, the Atlantic Cod, are teetering on the edge.
We don’t have a very good history of our stewardship of our wildlife.

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