Anatidae (Swans, Geese and Ducks)
Labrador Duck Camptorhynchus labradorius (Gmelin, 1789)
- RMNH 110.083: male. North-America. Collector: Prinz Maximiliaan von Wied zu Neuwied. Acquired in: 1863.
- RMNH 110.084: female. North-America. Collector: Prinz Maximiliaan von Wied zu Neuwied. V Acquired in: 1863.
Cause of extinction unknown
Ever since its discovery, the Labrador Duck was considered uncommon. Its name refers to its alleged breeding area, the Labrador district on the northeast coast of Canada, although its nest and eggs have never been identified with certainty. It has therefore been suggested that the breeding grounds may have been further north or perhaps on islands in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In winter the duck migrated south to the coasts of New England, New Jersey and Long Island, where it hibernated in sandy bays and inlets.
The causes of extinction of this sea-duck are not known. Like any other waterfowl, it was occasionally hunted, and even offered for sale at the meat markets of New York and Baltimore, despite its flesh not being very tasty. From its peculiar beak it may be deduced that the bird had specialized feeding habits and probably lived on small snails. This could have contributed to its extinction, as the species may have been particularly vulnerable to changes in the environment. The increasing human influence on the coastal ecosystems of eastern North America may have caused a change in the mollusc fauna, which eventually was fatal to this small duck. The last record is of a male which was caught in the autumn of 1875 in the waters near Long Island, New York. It is now in the U.S. National Museum in Washington. Another duck was said to have been shot three years later, on 2 December 1878, near Elmira, New York. Unfortunately this cannot be verified, since the specimen has been lost.
Naturalis possesses a male and a female, which were collected by the German naturalist Prinz Maximilian von Wied zu Neuwied, who travelled through the Americas in the beginning of the 19th century. The pair came to Leiden in 1863, probably as part of an exchange with the Naturhistorisches Museum in Vienna. Worldwide, 54 specimens of the Labrador Duck are preserved in museum collections. The largest collection containing ten specimens, is in the American Museum of Natural History in New York.