What kinds of ducks can you find in Nigeria?
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 Nigeria. In reality, the complete list of ducks that can be seen is even larger!
7 DUCKS That Live in Nigeria:
#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 Nigeria, 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 Nigeria, 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 Nigeria 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 Nigeria!
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 Nigeria!
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 Nigeria!
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. Fulvous Whistling-Duck
- Dendrocygna bicolor
- Adults are 45–53 cm (18–21 in) long.
- Their coloring is chestnut over the head, chest, and undersides, with black wings and backs. They have a white patch on the throat and lavender-gray feet and bills.
- Females are smaller, and their colors are slightly duller.
The Fulvous Whistling Duck inhabits swamps, lowland marches, and even flat country, but it avoids wooded areas in Nigeria. This species is an herbivore, mostly feeding on seeds, leaf shoots, bulbs, buds, and aquatic plants.
They show remarkable loyalty to their partners, and the male and female are often monogamous for life. Fulvous Whistling Ducks often act like a human married couple, and the male and female share the incubation and childrearing responsibilities. The female lays about 10 eggs, and surprisingly, the male spends the most time in the nest, protecting and incubating them.
Once the grey ducklings hatch, the parents immediately expose them to the water. They tend to them and stay close by until they fledge, which happens after about nine weeks. To protect the youngsters, the duck acts out a broken wing display to lure predators away!
- 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 Nigeria 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!
Check out these guides to other animals found in Nigeria!
Which of these ducks in Nigeria have you seen before?
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