The Black-headed Duck (Heteronetta atricapilla) is a small, striking and rare species of duck that is native to South America. This bird is a member of the Anatidae family and is the only species within its genus. It is named after its distinguishing feature – a black head with white cheeks - which is starkly noticeable as it contrasts with its white body.
These ducks are also referred to as the Hooded Scaup, Black and White Duck, or Black-headed Scaup. They usually inhabit freshwater marshes, lakes, and ponds in the Andean regions of Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, and Peru. They have also been documented in Uruguay and Paraguay.
The Black-headed Duck is a small-sized bird that measures about 30 cm in length and weighs around 350 - 500 g. The male and female look alike in terms of their physical appearance. They have predominantly white plumage on their body with black wings, bill, and legs. The males have a higher-pitched voice than females.
These ducks mainly feed on aquatic plants, insects, and their larvae. They often dive to the bottom of the water to look for their food, and can stay under the water for about 20 seconds. They are known to be very territorial and aggressive towards other waterfowl species.
There is very limited information available about the breeding habits of the Black-headed Duck. However, it is known that they usually breed during the months of October and November. They build their nests on the ground close to the water, or on floating vegetation. Females usually lay around 5-6 eggs in the clutch, which they incubate for approximately 4 weeks.
Unfortunately, the Black-headed Duck faces a significant threat of habitat loss due to human activities such as agriculture and urbanization. The species is also susceptible to pollution and droughts. As a result, it has been classified as “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. To protect this unique and beautiful species, there have been efforts to manage their habitats and promote conservation programs. However, more action is required to ensure the survival of this rare duck species.