Black-headed Ducks


Black-headed Duck (Heteronetta atricapilla) - Male in Breeding Plumage


The Black-headed Ducks (Heteronetta atricapilla) are South American ducks.


These ducks are small and dark plumaged.

The male has a black head and mantle and a paler flank and abdomen.

The female has a mostly pale brown plumage.

Unlike other members of its family, it doesn't have a stiff tail and swollen bill.

Black-headed Duck - Pair (Heteronetta atricapilla) - Male below



They occur naturally in North Chile, Paraguay, and North Argentina, where they live in swamps, lakes and marshes.


Nesting / Breeding

The Black-headed Ducks are obligate brood parasite, which lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, using Rosybill (Netta peposaca) and other ducks, coots (Fulica species), and occasionally even gulls and birds of prey as hosts for their broods.

Their eggs hatch after about 21 days and are independent within hours of hatching.

Relevant Resources


Diet / Feeding:

Black-headed ducks feed on seeds, roots and leaves of aquatic plants, as well as eating aquatic insects and crustaceans. They feed by diving.

Ducks generally feed on larvae and pupae usually found under rocks, aquatic animals, plant material, seeds, small fish, snails and crabs.

Feeding Ducks ...

We all enjoy ducks and many of us offer them food to encourage them to come over and stay around - and it works! Who doesn't like an easy meal!

However, the foods that we traditionally feed them at local ponds are utterly unsuitable for them and are likely to cause health problems down the road. Also, there may be local laws against feeding this species of bird - so it's best to check on that rather than facing consequences at a later stage.

Please note that feeding ducks and geese makes them dependent on humans for food, which can result in starvation and possibly death when those feedings stop. If you decide to feed them, please limit the quantity to make sure that they maintain their natural ability to forage for food themselves - providing, of course, that natural food sources are available.

Species Research by Sibylle Johnson


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