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Ducks

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The family Anatidae includes the ducks and most duck-like waterfowl, such as geese and swans. These are birds that are modified for an aquatic existence with webbed feet, flattened bills and feathers that are excellent at shedding water due to an oily coating. There are 131 species worldwide and 16 species which occur in Namibia.

Fulvous Whistling Duck Dendrocygna bicolor


The Fulvous Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna bicolor, is a whistling duck which breeds across the world's tropical regions in much of Central and South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and the Gulf Coast of the United States.

The Fulvous Whistling Duck is a common but wary species. It is largely resident, apart from local movements, but vagrancy has occurred to southern Europe. It nests on a stick platform in reeds, laying 8–12 eggs, but hollow trees or old bird nests are occasionally used for nesting.

Its habitat is freshwater lakes, paddy fields or reservoirs with plentiful vegetation, where this duck feeds mainly at night on seeds and other parts of plants..

The Fulvous Whistling Duck is 48–53 cm long. It has a long grey bill, long head and longish legs, buff head and underparts, the latter reddish-tinged on the flanks, a dark crown, and dark grey back and wings. The tail and wing patches are chestnut, and there is a white crescent on the upper tail which is visible in flight.

All plumages are similar, except that juveniles have less contrasted flank and tail colouration. This species is gregarious, and at favoured sites substantial flocks can form. As the name implies, these are noisy birds with a clear whistling kee-wee-ooo call.

White-faced Whistling-duck Dendrocygna viduata

The White-faced Whistling Duck, Dendrocygna viduata, is a whistling duck which breeds in sub-Saharan Africa and much of South America.

This species is gregarious, and at favoured sites, the flocks of a thousand or more birds arriving at dawn are an impressive sight. As the name implies, these are noisy birds with a clear three-note whistling call.

This species has a long grey bill, long head and longish legs. It has a white face and crown, and black rear head. The back and wings are dark brown to black, and the underparts are black, although the flanks have fine white barring. The neck is chestnut. All plumages are similar, except that juveniles have a much less contrasted head pattern.

The habitat is still freshwater lakes or reservoirs, with plentiful vegetation, where this duck feeds on seeds and other plant food.

This is an abundant species. It is largely resident, apart from local movements which can be 100 km or more.
It nests on a stick platform near the ground, and lays 8-12 eggs. Trees are occasionally used for nesting.

White-backed Duck Thalassornis leuconotus


The White-backed Duck (Thalassornis leuconotus) is a waterbird of the family Anatidae. It is distinct from all other ducks, but most closely related to the whistling ducks in the subfamily Dendrocygninae, though also showing some similarities to the stiff-tailed ducks in the subfamily Oxyurinae. It is the only member of the genus Thalassornis.

These birds are well adapted for diving. On occasions they have been observed to stay under water for up to half a minute. They search especially for the bulbs of waterlilies. From danger, they also escape preferentially by diving; hence, the namesake white back is hardly visible in life.

White-backed Ducks live in southern Africa, especially between Senegal and Chad in the west and Ethiopia and South Africa in the east. Their habitat consists of lakes, ponds, swamps and marshes where they are well camouflaged against predators.

South African Shelduck Tadorna cana

The Cape Shelduck or South African Shelduck, Tadorna cana, is a species of shelduck, a group of large goose-like birds which are part of the bird family Anatidae, which also includes the swans, geese and ducks. The Anatidae article should be referred to for an overview of this group of birds.

This is a 64 cm long bird which breeds in southern Africa, mainly in Namibia and South Africa. In the southern winter, many birds move north-east from the breeding range to favoured moulting grounds, where sizable concentrations occur.

This species is mainly associated with lakes and rivers in fairly open country, breeding in disused mammal holes, usually those of the Aardvark.

Adult Cape Shelduck have ruddy bodies and wings strikingly marked with black, white and green. The male has a grey head, and the female has a white face and black crown, nape and neck sides.

Comb Duck Sarkidiornis melanotos


The Knob-billed Duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos), or Comb Duck, is an unusual, pan-tropical duck, found in tropical wetlands in sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar and south Asia from Pakistan to Laos and extreme southern China. It also occurs in continental South America south to the Paraguay River region in eastern Paraguay, southeastern Brazil and the extreme northeast of Argentina, and as a vagrant on Trinidad.

It is the only known species of the genus Sarkidiornis. The supposed extinct "Mauritian Comb Duck" is based on misidentified remains of the Mauritian Shelduck (Alopochen mauritianus); this was realized as early as 1897 but the mistaken identity can still occasionally be found in recent sources.

Description and systematics: This common species is unmistakable. Adults have a white head freckled with dark spots, and a pure white neck and underparts. The upperparts are glossy blue-black upperparts, with bluish and greenish iridescence especially prominent on the secondaries (lower arm feathers). The male is larger than the female, and has a large black knob on the bill. Young birds are dull buff below and on the face and neck, with dull brown upperparts, top of the head and eyestripe.

The adults are unmistakable. Immature Knob-billed Ducks look like a large greyish female of the Cotton Pygmy Goose (Nettapus coromandelicus) and may be difficult to tell apart if no other birds are around to compare size and hue. If seen at a distance, they can also be mistaken for a Fulvous Whistling-duck (Dendrocygna bicolor) or a female Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata). The former is more vividly colored, with yellowish and reddish brown hues; the latter has a largely dark brown head with white stripes above and below the eye. However, Knob-billed Ducks in immature plumage are rarely seen without adults nearby and thus they are usually easily identified too.

The Knob-billed Duck is silent except for a low croak when flushed.

African Black Duck Anas sparsa

The African Black Duck (Anas sparsa) is a species of duck of the genus Anas. It is genetically closest to the mallard group (Johnson & Sorenson, 1999), but shows some peculiarities in its behavior (Johnson et al., 2000) and (as far as they can be discerned) plumage; it is accordingly placed in the subgenus Melananas pending further research.

The African Black Duck is an entirely black duck with white marks on its back. It lives in central and southern Africa.It is also known as the black river duck, or (A. s. leucostigma) West African black duck or Ethiopian black duck.

It is a very shy and territorial duck. It is usually seen in pairs or small flocks. It breeds throughout the year in different areas. Incubation is about 30 days by the mother and the fledgling period is 86 days and only the mother takes care of the young.

It is a medium sized duck and is similar in size but when seen in pairs the male is noticeably bigger. Their egg quantity ranges from 4 to 8 eggs.

Though it likes to stay in rivers and streams during the day it prefers large open waters during the night. This duck likes water in the wooded hills of Africa and also like to hide its nests near running water. Also the Anas sparsa makes its cup shaped nest of driftwood and matted grass. Though it builds its nest near running water it is always above flood level and on the ground.

It feeds off of larvae and pupae usually found under rocks, aquatic animals, plant material, seeds, small fish, snails, and crabs.

Cape Teal Anas capensis

The Cape Teal (Anas capensis) is a 44-46 cm long dabbling duck of open wetlands in sub-Saharan Africa.

This species is essentially non-migratory, although it moves opportunistically with the rains. Like many southern ducks, the sexes are similar. It is very pale and mainly grey, with a browner back and pink on the bill (young birds lack the pink). The Cape Teal cannot be confused with any other duck in its range.

It is a thinly distributed but widespread duck, rarely seen in large groups except the moulting flocks, which may number up to 2 000.

This species feeds on aquatic plants and small creatures (invertebrates, crustaceans and amphibians) obtained by dabbling. The nest is on the ground under vegetation and near water.

This is a generally quiet species, except during mating displays. The breeding male has a clear whistle, whereas the female has a feeble "quack".

Yellow-billed Duck Anas undulata

The Yellow-billed Duck, Anas undulata, is a 51–58 cm long dabbling duck which is an abundant resident breeder in southern and eastern Africa.

This duck is not migratory, but will wander in the dry season to find suitable waters. It is highly gregarious outside the breeding season and forms large flocks.

These are Mallard-sized mainly grey ducks with a darker head and bright yellow bill. The wings are whitish below, and from above show a white-bordered green speculum.

Sexes are similar, and juveniles are slightly duller than adults. The north-eastern race is darker and has a brighter bill and blue speculum.

It is a bird of freshwater habitats in fairly open country and feeds by dabbling for plant food mainly in the evening or at night. It nests on the ground in dense vegetation near water. The clutch numbers between six and twelve eggs.

The male has a Teal-like whistle, whereas the female has a Mallard-like quack.

Northern Pintail Anas acuta (A)

The Pintail or Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) is a widely occurring duck which breeds in the northern areas of Europe, Asia and North America. It is strongly migratory and winters south of its breeding range to the equator. Unusually for a bird with such a large range, it has no geographical subspecies if the possibly con-specific Eaton's Pintail is considered to be a separate species.

This is a fairly large duck, with a long pointed tail that gives rise to the species' English and scientific names. The Northern Pintail's many names describe the male's two long black tail feathers, which in flight look like a single pin or twig (thus, the nickname sprig). These feathers are very distinctive, accounting for a quarter of the total length of the drake when in full plumage. Fast and graceful fliers, pintails are equipped with long wings, small heads, and long necks that seem built for streamlined aerodynamics. Both sexes have blue gray bills and gray legs and feet. The drake is more striking, having a thin white stripe running from the back of its chocolate-colored head down its neck to its mostly white undercarriage.

The drake also has attractive gray, brown, and black patterning on its back and sides. The hen's plumage is more subtle and subdued, with drab brown feathers similar to those of other female dabblers. Hens make a coarse quack and the drakes a flute-like whistle.

The Northern Pintail is a bird of open wetlands which nests on the ground, often some distance from water. It feeds by dabbling for plant food and adds small invertebrates to its diet during the nesting season. It is highly gregarious when not breeding, forming large mixed flocks with other species of duck.

This duck's population is affected by predators, parasites and avian diseases. Human activities, such as agriculture, hunting and fishing, have also had a significant impact on numbers. Nevertheless, this species' huge range and large population mean that it is not threatened globally.

The Northern Pintail has been called the "nomads of the skies." due to their wide-ranging migrations. This dabbling duck breeds across northern areas of Eurasia south to about Poland and Mongolia, and in Canada, Alaska and the Midwestern United States. It winters mainly south of its breeding range, reaching almost to the equator in Panama, northern sub-Saharan Africa and tropical South Asia. Small numbers migrate to Pacific islands, particularly Hawaii, where a few hundred birds winter on the main islands in shallow wetlands and flooded agricultural habitats.

The Pintail feeds by dabbling and upending in shallow water for plant food mainly in the evening or at night, and therefore spends much of the day resting. Its long neck enables it to take food items from the bottom of water bodies up to 30 centimeters deep, which are beyond the reach of other dabbling ducks like the Mallard.

The winter diet is mainly plant material including seeds and rhizomes of aquatic plants, but the Pintail sometimes feeds on roots, grain and other seeds in fields, though less frequently than other Anas ducks. During the nesting season, this bird eats mainly invertebrate animals, including aquatic insects, molluscs and crustaceans.

Red-billed Duck Anas erythrorhyncha

The Red-billed Teal, Anas erythrorhyncha, is a dabbling duck which is an abundant resident breeder in southern and eastern Africa typically south of 10° S. This duck is not migratory, but will fly great distances to find suitable waters. It is highly gregarious outside the breeding season and forms large flocks.

The Red-billed Teal is 43–48 centimeters long and has a blackish cap and nape, contrasting pale face, and bright red bill. The body plumage is a dull dark brown scalloped with white. Flight reveals that the secondary flight feathers are buff with a black stripe across them. The sexes are similar, but juveniles are duller than adults.

This is a quiet species, but the displaying male has a whzzt call, whereas the female has a soft Mallard-like quack.

The Red-billed Teal is a bird of freshwater habitats in fairly open country and is an omnivore. It feeds by dabbling for plant food, or foraging on land mainly in the evening or at night. It nests on the ground in dense vegetation near water.

Hottentot Teal Anas hottentota

The Hottentot Teal (Anas hottentota) is a species of dabbling duck of the genus Anas. It is migratory resident in eastern and southern Africa, from Sudan and Ethiopia west to Niger and Nigeria and south to South Africa and Namibia. In west Africa, and Madagascar it is sedentary. The Hottentot Teal breed year round, depending on rainfall, and stay in small groups or pairs. They build nests above water in tree stumps and use vegetation. Ducklings leave the nest soon after hatching, and the mother's parenting is limited to providing protection from predators and leading young to feeding areas. This species is omnivorous and prefers smaller shallow bodies of water.

Garganey Anas querquedula

The Garganey, Anas querquedula, is a small dabbling duck. It breeds in much of Europe and western Asia, but is strictly migratory, with the entire population moving to southern Africa and Australasia in winter, where large flocks can occur. This species was first described by Linnaeus in 1758 under its current scientific name. Like other small ducks such as the Common Teal, this species rises easily from the water with a fast twisting wader-like flight.

Their breeding habitat is grassland adjacent to shallow marshes and steppe lakes.

The adult male is unmistakable, with its brown head and breast with a broad white crescent over the eye. The rest of the plumage is grey, with loose grey scapular feathers It has a grey bill and legs. In flight it shows a pale blue speculum with a white border. When swimming it will show prominent white edges on its tertials. His crown (anatomy) is dark and face is reddish-brown.

Cape Shoveler Anas smithii

The Cape Shoveler Anas smithii formerly known as Cape Shoveller is a species of dabbling duck of the genus Anas. It is resident in South Africa, and uncommon further north in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, southern Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, and Zambia

This 51–53 cm long duck is non-migratory, but undertakes some local seasonal movements. It is gregarious when not breeding, and may then form large flocks.

This species has a large spatulate bill. Adults have speckled grey-brown plumage and dull orange legs. As with many southern hemisphere ducks, the sexes appear similar, but the male has a paler head than the female, a pale blue forewing separated from the green speculum by a white border, and yellow eyes. The female's forewing is grey.

Cape Shoveler can only be confused with a vagrant female Northern Shoveler, but is much darker and stockier than that species.

It is a bird of open wetlands, such as wet grassland or marshes with some emergent vegetation, and feeds by dabbling for plant food, often by swinging its bill from side to side to strain food from the water. This bird also eats molluscs and insects in the nesting season. The nest is a shallow depression on the ground, lined with plant material and down, and usually close to water.

This is a fairly quiet species. The male has a cawick call, whereas the female has a Mallard-like quack.

Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata (A)

The Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata), sometimes known simply as the Shoveler, is a common and widespread duck.

This species is unmistakable in the northern hemisphere due to its large spatulate bill. The breeding male has a green head, white breast and chestnut belly and flanks. In flight, pale blue forewing feathers are revealed, separated from the green speculum by a white border. In early fall the male will have a white crescent on each side of the face. In non-breeding (eclipse) plumage, the drake resembles the female.

The female is light brown, with plumage much like a female Mallard, but easily distinguished by the long broad bill, which is gray tinged with orange on cutting edge and lower mandible The female's forewing is grey.

They are 19 inches long (48 cm) and have a wingspan of 30 inches (76 cm) with a weight of (600 g).

Northern Shovelers feed by dabbling for plant food, often by swinging its bill from side to side and using the bill to strain food from the water. It also eats mollusks and insects in the nesting season.

The nest is a shallow depression on the ground, lined with plant material and down, usually close to water.

This is a fairly quiet species. The male has a clunking call, whereas the female has a Mallard-like quack.

This is a bird of open wetlands, such as wet grassland or marshes with some emergent vegetation.

Southern Pochard Netta erythrophthalma


The African Pochard occurs from the Cape to the Ethiopian highlands on water bodies with or without emergent vegetation. They are suspected to have been strong migrants in the past but the construction of numerous farm dams seems to allow them a more sedentary lifestyle. They reach highest concentrations in Africa's central plateaus and in the south-western winter rainfall region.

This bird is sociable and gregarious. It has been seen in groups of up to 5,000. The clutch consists of six to fifteen eggs.

Maccoa Duck Oxyura maccoa

The Maccoa Duck (Oxyura maccoa) is a small (48-51 cm) long African stiff-tailed duck.

Adult males have a chestnut body, a blue bill and a black head. Adult females have a grey-brown body, with a dark grey bill and a dark brown crown, nape and cheek stripe.

This duck breeds in two main areas: eastern Africa from Sudan and Ethiopia to Tanzania and west to eastern Zaire, and southern Africa from Zimbabwe to Cape Province, South Africa. Their breeding habitat is shallow fresh waters, and they are also found in brackish and saline lakes in winter.

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