Capricorn Coast Birds
  Ducks and Geese  
Duck is the common name for a large number of species in the Anatidae family, which also includes swans and geese and they are found  across most of the world except for Antarctica.
Their feeding methods are varied; they dabble (filter surface water or mud through the bill), upend to feed from the bottom, graze on plant material on the surface of the water and graze on land. . Most ducks lay a large number of eggs, generally up to around 12, the number of offspring produced may seem quite high but only 20% of these will survive past two years of age.
  Grey Teal
Anas gracilis
Average size 44cm
  Pacific Black Duck
Anas superciliosa
Average size 55 cm
Distribution; throughout Australia, except the driest areas, and in New Guinea, New Zealand, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.
Habitat; fresh, brackish and salt water; however the most favoured places are timbered pools and river systems of the inland areas.
Diet; dry land plants, aquatic plants, seeds, crustaceans, insects and their larvae.
The sexes are similar and breed when conditions are suitable, birds lay soon after these occur and may raise several broods while the conditions remain favourable, in dry years they may not breed at all. They nest on the ground, in rabbit burrows or in tree hollows.
Distribution; all but the most arid regions of Australia and throughout the Pacific region.
Diet; seeds of aquatic plants obtained by 'dabbling', where the bird plunges its head and neck underwater and upends, raising its tail out of the water and sifting the bottom for seeds, this diet is supplemented with small crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic insects
The sexes are similar and mating coincides with availability of sufficient food and water, the nest tends to be built away from water and are often in tree holes.
Aythya australis
Average size 50cm
  Plumed Whistling Duck
Dendrocygna eytoni
Average size 50 cm

Distribution; throughout Australia but are most common in the south-east, particularly in the Murray-Darling Basin. They are only found in Australia but are seasonal migrants to New Guinea and nearby islands.
Diet; small aquatic creatures such as yabbies, shrimps and insect larvae and water weeds.
Habitat; lakes, swamps and rivers with deep, still water, but are often seen in smaller streams, flooded grasslands and shallow pools.
The male, on the left in the photo, has white eyes and is darker overall, breeding is in spring, depending on rainfall. The nest is a cup of neatly woven reeds and sticks built in dense reeds or other vegetation in water about 1 metre deep.
They are fairly easy to find here but are very wary of people, I regularly see them at Hedlow Creek in company with other ducks.


Distribution; eastern, northern and central Australia across the Top End and Cape York down to southern Queensland and northern New South Wales on the east coast.
Habitat; tall grassland and savanna near bodies of water, they have benefitted from pastoral practices which provide dams for water and pasture on which to graze. They feed at night on grasslands and rather than diving for food in bodies of water like other ducks they feed by cropping grass on land like geese. Their call is a characteristic whistle which gives the bird its common name.
The sexes are similar in appearance and breeding begins in the wet season, the nest is a mattress of grasses or similar material in tall grass in or near vegetation.

  Cotton Pygmy Goose
Nettapus coromandelianus albipennis
Average size 35cm
  Radjah Shelduck
Tadorna radjah
Average size 55cm
Distribution; this subspecies occurs only in northern Australia. They are relatively common in eastern Queensland from the Fitzroy Basin north to Princess Charlotte Bay but are now rare vagrants south of this area, in NSW they are listed as endangered. They have been adversely affected by drainage of wetlands or their invasion by introduced weeds, particularly water hyacinth;  they are more restricted in range than any other Australian native duck and their numbers are relatively few.
Habitat; deep freshwater lagoons, swamps and dams, particularly those with waterlilies or other floating vegetation.
Diet; seeds, flowers and other parts of aquatic plants.
The photo is of a female Breeding males have glossy greenish-black
upperparts and are white from face to chest with a thin dark
Distribution; across coastal tropical Australia from central Queensland through the Northern Territory to the Kimberley in Western Australia. They were once found along the east coast as far south as north-east New South Wales but are now scarce south of Cape York Peninsula and are no longer present south of Maryborough.
Habitat; the brackish waters of mangrove flats and paperbark tree swamps but will visit freshwater swamps, lagoons, and billabongs further inland during the wet season.
Diet; mainly mollusks, insects, sedges and algae.
Males and females look the same and form long-term pair bonds, they nest close to their primary food source, often in the hollow limbs of trees, and breeding is usually finished by June, depending on the duration of the wet season.
more Radjah Shelduck photos

Australian Wood Duck
Chenonetta jubata
Average size 47 cm

  Pink-eared Duck
Malacorrhyncus membranaceus
Average size 40cm
Distribution; endemic to Australia and are widespread throughout the continent, including Tasmania, they are the only living species in the genus Chenonetta.
Habitat; grasslands, open woodlands, wetlands, flooded pastures and along the coast in inlets and bays.
Diet; grasses, clover and other herbs, and occasionally, insects. They are not a swimming duck and are rarely seen on open water, preferring to forage by dabbling in shallow water or grazing on shorter grasses around it.
The sexes are markedly different, in the photo above the female is on the right, and they form monogamous breeding pairs that stay together year round. The nest is in a tree cavity above or near water and often re-used.
Distribution; throughout Australia in timbered areas near water. Habitat; shallow, temporary waters such as inland swamps, however open wetlands support large flocks. They are a highly dispersive and nomadic species and will fly great distances in search of water.
They feed in a highly specialised manner, water is sucked through the bill-tip which is fringed with fine grooves that filter out the microscopic plants and animals which make up the bulk of their diet.
Breeding can take place all year round and is dependent on floodwaters. The nest is a rounded mass of down placed in a hollow or on a stump above the water. Pink-eared Ducks usually take over nests built by other birds.  The female incubates the eggs, and both parents brood the young.
Photographed at the Rockhampton Botanic Gardens.
  Black Swan
Cygnus atratus
Average size 130cm
  Magpie Goose
Anseranas semipalmata
Average size 85cm
Distribution; throughout Australia with the exception of Cape York Peninsula and the drier interior.
Habitat; salt, brackish or fresh waterways and permanent wetlands, including ornamental lakes, flooded pastures and tidal mud flats.
Diet; algae and weeds which the bird obtains by plunging its long neck into water up to 1 m deep, occasionally birds will graze on land.
Males and females look the same, the nest is a large mound of reeds, grasses and weeds about diameter and up to 1m. high and built in shallow water or on islands. .
Distribution; coastal northern Australia and in southern New Guinea, they are plentiful across their range, although this has been significantly reduced since European settlement.
Habitat; wetlands, floodplains and wet grasslands
Diet; sedges, grasses and seeds forming the bulk of the diet and they can form large and noisy flocks of up to a few thousand individuals.
The sexes look alike, the nest consists of a simple unlined cup placed on a floating platform of trampled reeds in a secluded place close to wetlands.
These are seasonally present in large numbers and can be seen at Hedlow Creek and along Fishing Creek Road.