White-headed Ducks

White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala)

Duck Information

The White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala) is a small stiff-tailed duck.



Adult males have a grey and reddish body, a blue bill and a largely white head with a black cap and neck.

Adult females have a grey-brown body with a white face and a darker bill, cap and a cheek stripe.

Male White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala)

White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala)


White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala) Range / Distribution:

This duck breeds in Spain and North Africa, with a larger population in western and central Asia. Their breeding habitat is large tracts of open water with dense stands of aquatic plants to provide cover and nesting sites.

These birds dive and swim underwater.They are reluctant to fly, preferring to swim for cover.

This duck is considered endangered due to a large reduction in populations in the last ten years. Most of this decline is due to habitat loss and hunting, but interbreeding of the Spanish population with the introduced Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) is a more recent threat. This has led to the attempted eradication of the American species from western Europe.

The White-headed Duck is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.



    • BirdLife International (2006). . In: IUCN 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 11 May 2006. Database entry includes justification for why this species is endangered

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White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala) - Male

Male White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala)


White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala) Diet / Feeding:

White-headed ducks are omnivorous, with vegetable matter predominating.

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.


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