This species was described more than 150 years ago. It is thought that it is the sole survivor of an ancient waterfowl lineage
What They Eat
Freckled ducks are filter feeders that mainly eat plants, such as algae, seeds and grasses. Aquatic invertebrates (insects) are eaten in small quantities.
Where They Live
Found only in Australia, these ducks live in open lakes and marshes that have abundant vegetation. They live in brackish waters during the non-breeding season, but are not found in saltwater.
What They Do
Freckled ducks typically nest from June through December, but their breeding is determined by flooding. If there is a lot of flooding, they will breed year-round. Nests are built from interwoven twigs and stems, usually in remote, shallow swamps.
How They’re Doing
This species of duck is not considered threatened. There is a relatively large population and their numbers appear to be stable. Currently, the population is estimated to contain 7,300 – 17,000 mature ducks.
- Freckled ducks are large and heavy. The long neck is held low during flight, giving a hunch-backed appearance.
- Freckled ducks usually rest during the day and are most active at night.
- Freckled ducks are generally silent or very quiet. Most calls are described as a cross between a soft growl and snorting hiss. However, both sexes are known to make a “raucous roar” call.
- Males and females look similar with dark gray-brown plumage that is freckled with whitish or buff markings. They have a triangular-shaped head with a crest and a large, curved bill. During breeding season, the base of the male’s bill becomes bright red.
- Freckled ducks are social. During breeding season, they are found in pairs or small groups. During non-breeding times, they can be seen in large flocks of more than 1,000 individuals.
- Male freckled ducks construct a bowl-shaped nest concealed in tall vegetation near water. During the breeding season, a male will defend a small area around the nest site.
- A typical freckled duck nest contains 5-10 pale, creamy white eggs.
- The female alone cares for the eggs and chicks. After hatching, she will vigorously defend her ducklings for about 5 weeks and may even attack humans that come too close.
- As ducklings, freckled ducks lack patterns and look like young swans.
- Freckled ducks in North American zoos and aviaries are from a lineage of ducks first propagated in human care by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) in the 1980s. The founding individuals were eight males, two females and 26 eggs collected from three wild nests. In 1983, 24 ducklings were reared. Birds were sent to other Australian facilities, to Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge, England, and later to Sylvan Heights Bird Park in Scotland Neck, North Carolina in 1996.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies the freckled duck as a species of “least concern” for extinction. While the species has a wide range overall, it is considered threatened in some parts of Australia. It is the rarest Australian duck and is legally protected in every state of Australia. The greatest threats to their survival are drought, habitat loss, and misidentification by duck hunters. While the population is stable with an estimated 7,300 – 17,000 mature ducks, it appears to fluctuate with El Niño / La Niña events.