What kinds of ducks can you find in Madagascar?
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 Madagascar. In reality, the complete list of ducks that can be seen is even larger!
7 DUCKS That Live in Madagascar:
#1. 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 Madagascar 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.
#2. Red-billed Teal
- Anas erythrorhyncha
- Adults are 43–48 cm (17–19 in) long.
- They have a red bill and a dark brown body. Their heads are white on the cheeks, with a black stripe over the eyes and top of the head.
- Both sexes have the same physical characteristics.
The Red-Billed Teal is a dabbling duck in Madagascar that prefers natural and artificial dams. These ducks are abundant, especially in wetlands with grassy areas with nearby water. They spend most of the day on the water and only go on land at night to feed. As omnivores, their diet consists of plant food, insects, snails, and worms.
Unlike diving ducks, dabbling ducks get most of their food from land or the water’s surface. They don’t dive or fully submerge. So you’re much more likely to see them floating on the surface or walking near the water’s edge.
#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 Madagascar!
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 Madagascar!
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.
#5. Blue-billed Teal
- Spatula hottentota
- Adults are 33–35 cm (13-14 in) long.
- Their coloring is mottled tan and dark brown. They have grey legs, blue bills, a green wing speculum, and a black streak on the top of the head.
- Males have brown crowns and pale faces.
- Females have nearly black crowns, but their wings lack the glossy color found in the males.
You’re unlikely to misidentify this duck in Madagascar!
The Blue-billed Teal is best known for its namesake blue-gray beak, which is usually brighter in males but also visible in females. This species frequents swamps, marshes, lakes, and ponds. Interestingly, they’re often found in rice paddies, where they feed on seeds, plants, fruit, and aquatic invertebrates disturbed by cattle.
Blue-billed Teals are a shy and reclusive species. They might flock in small numbers but never more than ten or so, and mostly, they restrict themselves to living in pairs. They’re most comfortable sleeping on the water but will rest on land if the environment is safe.
The breeding habits of this duck are a bit unusual compared to others. For example, instead of the male approaching a female, the female entices the male to attract him. If the male is interested, he responds by flapping his wings and burping.
#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 Madagascar.
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 Madagascar 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 Madagascar!
Which of these ducks in Madagascar have you seen before?
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