African Black Duck

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Common Name: African Black Duck
Scientific Name: Anas sparsa

Size: 22 inches (56 cm); Wingspan: 23-27 inches (58-69 cm)

Habitat: Africa; found in west equatorial Africa; East Africa south to Zimbabwe and South Africa. It is not a migrant, being territorial and sedentary within a permanent range, although in South Africa some birds move from rivers to large local open waters to roost, returning to the rivers in the early morning.

This species prefers fast-flowing shallow rivers and streams with rocky substrates, particularly in wooded and mountainous country up to 4,250 m. It can also be found in open, arid habitats and on lakes, reservoirs, lagoons, sandy-bottomed estuaries, stagnant or slow-flowing water. During this species' flightless molt period it requires cover near its foraging areas such as lodged branches or undercut banks.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: Unknown amount of adult individuals. The overall population trend is decreasing, although some populations may be stable and others have unknown trends. The species is threatened by deforestation in Kenya, and as it is a river specialist it is vulnerable to habitat loss through river degradation such as dam building, water extraction, siltation, pollution, clearing of riparian vegetation and alien biota. Hybridization of the species with Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)is also a potential threat.

Diet: Omnivorous diet consisting of waterweeds and other aquatic vegetation, agricultural grain, fruits from terrestrial plants overhanging the water, mulberries, firethorn (Pryacantha) berries, fallen acorns, aquatic insects and their larvae, crustaceans, larval amphibians and fish spawn.

Nesting: Sexes are alike. It is an entirely black duck with white marks on its back, a pale pink and blackish bill and yellow feet with blackish webbing. Males are noticeably larger than females.

This species breeds irregularly, the timing of breeding varying with locality and throughout both breeding and non-breeding seasons the species remains dispersed as individuals or single pairs. Only when roosting will flocks be large.

Ground cavity nests and elevated tree-nesting sites have been reported for this species, but usually nests are sited close to running water on islands, grassy river banks, in reed beds or amongst driftwood. The important criteria for suitable nest sites are close proximity to water and near invisibility from above. The nests are built in a cup shape out of driftwood and matted grass. Their egg quantity ranges from 4 to 8 eggs. Incubation is about 30 days by the mother and the fledgling period is 86 days and only the mother takes care of the young.

Cool Facts: Adults undergo a flightless molting period lasting around 25-30 days; males molting between October and February (numbers peaking in November), females between November and February (numbers peaking in December).

Though it likes to stay in rivers and streams during the day it prefers large open waters during the night.

The African Black Duck is also known as the Black River Duck, West African Black Duck (A. s. leucostigma) or Ethiopian Black Duck and its average lifespan is 20-30 years.

Found in Songbird Remix Waterfowl Volume I: Dabbling Ducks

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