Hartlaub's Duck is an uncommon waterbird found in sub-Saharan Africa. It is a medium-sized duck that usually measures between 38 and 44 cm in length, with a wingspan of 64 to 70 cm. The weight ranges from 500 to 700 grams. Both male and female ducks have similar physical features and appear almost identical in appearance.
The male Hartlaub's Duck has a glossy chestnut-brown head, with a black spot behind the eye, ear-coverts that are black-brown and neck, breast and belly feathers that are chestnut-brown. The bill, legs and feet are grey-black in colour. The female has a white eye-ring, brown eyes and has a more subdued colouring on the head and body. The duck's back, wings and tail feathers are dark brown or black with white edges.
Hartlaub's Duck breeds in wooded swamps in Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Angola, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. They also spend time in coastal estuaries, ponds, and lakes, and are particularly fond of shallow marshes and wetlands surrounded by dense vegetation. Hartlaub's duck nests on the ground, and the nest resembles a shallow depression in the ground lined with plant matter and down feathers. Females usually lay eight to ten eggs, and both parents incubate the eggs.
The diet of Hartlaub's Duck mostly consists of small fish, snails, aquatic insects, and water plants. They are known to dive underwater, making use of their broad toes, in search of food. This duck has a preference for fresh water and will normally shy away from coastal environments.
The Hartlaub's Duck population is considered stable, and there are no major threats to their survival. However, deforestation and pollution negatively affect their habitat and food sources. Also, the degradation of wetland ecosystems due to human activities such as damming rivers, urbanisation and farming have led to the loss and fragmentation of the species' habitats.
In conclusion, Hartlaub's Duck is a fascinating waterbird that inhabits sub-Saharan Africa's wetlands and marshes. With its distinct physical features, it is an important bird species and plays a vital role in its ecosystem.