White-headed Duck, Oxyura leucocephala

The White-headed Duck (Oxyura leucocephala) is a petite stiff-tailed duck. The adult males have a reddish and grey body, a blue bill, and a largely white head with black cap and neck. The adult females have a brown-grey body with a white face and a darker bill, cheek stripe and cap. On average, its length is 17 to 19 inches and the weight is 1.3 to 1.7 lbs.

This duck breeds in Spain and North Africa, with a bigger population in western and central Asia. Their breeding habitat is large tracts of open water with thick stands of aquatic plants to provide cover and nesting sites. Individuals are somewhat frequently reported well north of their breeding range, but as with many other wildfowl the status of these extra-limital records is clouded by the possibility of escapes from collections.

These birds dive and swim underwater. They are omnivorous, with vegetable matter being the majority. They are unenthusiastic to fly, preferring to swim for cover.

The White-headed Duck is considered to be endangered because of a large reduction in populations in the last ten years. Most of this decline is because of 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 annihilation of the American species from western Europe.

This duck is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

Image Caption: Male White-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala). Credit: Ian13/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)