Hardhead

Did you know?

Hardheads dive for their food and can swim up to 40 metres under water, using their feet to propel them.

Calls
Usually silent, but males have a soft, wheezy whistle and 'whirr'. females have a loud rattling 'gaark' call.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
No
Minimum Size: 
45cm
Maximum Size: 
60cm
Average size: 
52cm
Average weight: 
850g
Breeding season: 
Variable, usually after rain.
Clutch Size: 
9 to 13
Incubation: 
32 days
Conservation Status
Federal: 
NSW: 
NT: 
QLD: 
SA: 
TAS: 
WA: 
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
Featured bird groups: 
Atlas Number: 
215
What does it look like?
Description: 

The Hardhead is a medium-sized duck which appears mainly chocolate brown when swimming, with a white undertail. In flight, the underwings are white, edged with brown. A white breast patch is obvious in flight and when standing in the shallows. The bill is pale blue on the tip. Males have a distinct white eye, while the eye is brown in females. When flying, the wings make a distinctive whirring sound. Hardheads sit low on the water and are diving ducks. This species is also known as the White-eyed Duck, Barwing or Brownhead.

Similar species: 

The chestnut brown colour and white eye is distinctive. The female is somewhat similar to the female Blue-billed DuckOxyura australis, but the Hardhead's white undertail is diagnostic and the stiff fanned tail of the Blue-billed Duck is obvious if it is raised.

Where does it live?
Distribution: 

The Hardhead is endemic to (only found in) Australia, though it is occasionally seen in New Guinea and other islands.

Habitat: 

Hardheads are found in freshwater swamps and wetlands and occasionally in sheltered estuaries. They are rarely seen on land and tend to roost on low branches and stumps near the water. They prefer deep, fresh open water and densely vegetated wetlands for breeding.

Seasonal movements: 

Hardheads are dispersive and numbers may irrupt after good rain, with sudden increases in numbers.

What does it do?
Feeding: 

Hardheads dive for their food, leaping forward and diving smoothly under the water. They eat aquatic plants and animals, particularly mussels and freshwater shellfish.

Breeding: 

Hardheads breed in low, thick vegetation, in or near the water, along rivers and channels and around billabongs and dams. The nest is a trampled platform of reeds, sticks and vegetation, with some down lining. The nest is built by the female, and is often added to with what she can reach from the nest. She incubates the eggs alone.

Living with us

Hardheads have declined in some areas after draining of freshwater wetlands or diversion of water for irrigation.

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