What kinds of ducks can you find in Benin?
Who doesn’t love ducks? Head to almost any water habitat, and you are likely to see at least a few swimming around.
The ducks featured below are the most common and likely to be observed in Benin. In reality, the complete list of ducks that can be seen is even larger!
7 DUCKS That Live in Benin:
#1. Spur-winged Goose
- Plectropterus gambensis
- Adults are 75–115 cm (30–45 in) long.
- Their coloring is predominantly black, with white patched wings, a greenish/bronze sheen, and a white face. Their legs and bill are bright pink to red.
- Males are larger than females and have a larger red facial patch.
- Females are very quiet, smaller, and have less red on the face.
Despite its name, this waterbird is technically not a goose (or a duck)!
The Spur-winged Goose is closely related to both ducks and geese in Benin, but it has adapted so well to its environment that it’s different from both of them! Look for these birds near open grasslands with seasonal pools, lakes, swamps, and rivers.
One of the most fascinating adaptations this waterbird has relates to its diet. The Spur-winged Goose eats blister beetles, which contain a toxin known as Cantharidin, an odorless poison that can kill humans and other mammals. These clever birds store the toxin in their flesh, and unsuspecting animals or people can be poisoned by eating them, even after being cooked! You should avoid Spur-winged Goose meat for this reason.
Despite being common in the wetlands of Benin, Spur-winged Geese are threatened by human development for housing and agriculture. Because they need water in their habitat, irrigation systems that divert their water supply are particularly harmful.
#2. White-faced Whistling-Duck
- Dendrocygna viduata
- Adults average about 40 cm (16 in) long.
- They have long black necks and heads, gray bills, a long head with dark brown wings, and a white face.
- Both sexes have the same coloring and size.
Look for these ducks in Benin traveling in gigantic flocks!
White-faced Whistling Ducks are extremely social and travel in groups of thousands of birds. Just before sunset, the flock descends on a lake or pond, and as the name indicates, it does not happen quietly. You can identify this duck by its three-note whistling call, which announces its arrival long before you can see it.
Look for these ducks near lakes, flooded plains, rivers, and wetlands where the flock can stay safe in numbers and feed on seeds, grass, and aquatic invertebrates. They dive underwater from the surface to find food and mostly feed at night.
When it is time for the White-faced Whistling Duck to mate, both the male and female preen to prepare themselves. It’s like getting ready for date night! After mating, the female lays between 6 and 12 eggs in a nest, but they aren’t picky about the nest’s location. They use stick platforms, holes in the ground, or even hollow trees! Female ducks care for their chicks until they can fly.
#3. Knob-billed Duck
- Sarkidiornis melanotos
- Adults are 56-76 cm (22-30 in) long.
- Their head and neck are white and covered in dark, freckle-like spots. They have a white underside, black bill and legs, and gray sides. The tops of their wings and back are covered in glossy-black feathers that shine greenish-blue in the sun.
- Males are significantly larger than females, with a bulky black knob on their bills.
The Knob-billed Duck is the largest duck in Benin!
It’s also one of the largest in the world. The bulky knob on its bill makes this duck easy to identify, but that’s a trait that only males have. You’ll find the African Knob-billed duck in open savannas near lakes and large rivers.
Although their diet is mostly aquatic vegetation, these ducks also feed on seeds and invertebrates. Additionally, the Knob-billed Duck is a skillful hunter, and despite its size, it is known to dive underwater to seek out small fish agilely.
Like some other duck species, Knob-billed Ducks breed according to the seasons. They always wait for heavy rains, and males begin to court females once the rainy season is underway.
Males often breed with two females at a time and up to five females during the breeding season. Although the male breeds with multiple females, he is extremely protective and protects both the females and the hatchlings.
#4. African Pygmy-Goose
- Nettapus auritus
- Adults are about 30 cm (12 in) long.
- They have short gray legs, stubby beaks, chestnut-colored feathers, and white bellies.
- Males have white faces, green cheeks, and a yellow bill with a black tip.
- Females have a dull greyish face, a green patch on the head, and a dark brown stripe over the eyes.
The African Pygmy Goose is the smallest duck in Benin!
And, before you ask, that’s not a typo – this “goose” is actually a duck! Its common name comes from the shape of its beak, which looks more like a goose.
These small waterbirds only grow up to 30 cm (12 in) long. Look for them in marshes, shallow lakes, coastal lagoons, and slow-flowing rivers. These ducks love to dive underwater and feed on waterlilies and other aquatic vegetation.
Similar to other aquatic birds, the African Pygmy Goose reproduces either during or after the rainy season. The male and female form a close relationship that often lasts for multiple years.
- Spatula querquedula
- Adults are about 41 cm (16 in) long.
- Males are gray with a brown chest and head, a dark crown, and large white curves over their eyes. Their mating call is a distinctive crackling honk.
- Females are brown with a dark eyeline and pale eyebrows. They’re quiet but occasionally manage a feeble quack.
The Garganey is a common duck in Benin during winter.
As a strict migratory species, the entire population moves north for summer and travels south to avoid cold weather. This is unusual among ducks since most species have at least some year-round residents.
Unlike diving ducks, Garganeys forage for their food just below the water’s surface, skimming aquatic plants and insects. They dip their bill into the water and shake their heads often, which makes them look like they’re washing their faces. 🙂
But their feeding style isn’t the only thing that’s a little quirky about the Garganey. When calling, the male makes an exaggerated nodding motion with his head and neck, then releases a shrill clicking noise that sounds like a bug! Finally, he shakes his tail feathers rapidly as if he’s dancing. It’s truly something to watch!
#6. White-backed Duck
- Thalassornis leuconotus
- Adults are 38-40 cm (15-16 in) long.
- Their coloring is mottled brown and black all over the body and face. They have black bills with yellow blotches and a white patch at the base.
- Both sexes look alike.
Look for this duck in shallow lakes and ponds in Benin.
The White-backed Duck is well-adapted for diving. They generally avoid open water and prefer shallow water with lots of vegetation, where they feed on seeds, grass, and aquatic invertebrates at night.
The male and female have a close breeding relationship, and after mating, the male helps with all the chores around the nest. They work together to build the nest out of plant material and line it with aquatic grass. Usually, the nests are constructed to drift on the water between reeds, but sometimes, these ducks place them on the ground close to the water.
Although unusual for ducks and waterbirds, White-backed Ducks breed throughout the year. While they are nesting and hatching, the male protects the female and the chicks. After the youngsters hatch, both parents stay with them until they can fly independently and leave the nest.
- Anas platyrhynchos
- Adults are 50–65 cm (20–26 in) long.
- Males have a bright green head, thin white collar, dark reddish-brown chest, yellow bill, and a black rear with a white-tipped tail.
- Females are mottled brown with orange and brown bills.
- Both sexes have purple-blue secondary feathers on their wing, most visible when standing or flying.
My guess is that almost everyone is familiar with the Mallard. These ducks are often seen in Benin living around people! Because they are so comfortable around humans, these adaptable ducks are widespread around the world.
When you think of a duck quacking, it is almost inevitably a female Mallard. If there is a better duck sound, we haven’t heard it! Interestingly, males do not quack like females but, instead, make a raspy call.
Check out these guides to other animals found in Benin!
Which of these ducks in Benin have you seen before?
Leave a comment below!