L. Reichenbach, 1853
The freckled duck (Stictonetta naevosa) is a moderately large, broad-bodied duck native to southern Australia. The duck is protected by law. Dark in colour with fine off-white speckles all over, it is most easily identified by its large head with a peaked (as opposed to rounded) crown.
This species was formerly allied with the dabbling ducks, but is now placed in a monotypic subfamily Stictonettinae. It appears to be part of a Gondwanan radiation of waterfowl, before the evolution of true ducks.
The freckled duck feeds by dabbling in shallow water, often by wading near the edge. It prefers large, well-vegetated swamps, but moves to open water after breeding or in dry periods.
In flight, it has a distinctive rapid wing beat and holds its head low, making it appear hunchbacked. It does not turn rapidly and lands clumsily.
In dry years, the ephemeral wetlands of the Murray-Darling Basin and Lake Eyre disappear and freckled ducks migrate to permanent water in coastal regions. This concentration in populated areas, coupled with their habit of circling repeatedly at low altitude when disturbed (even when being shot at) makes them particularly vulnerable to hunting.
Although protected by law in all states, Freckled ducks continue to be poached. During the 1979–83 drought the population was reduced by 5 percent. There have been steps taken to require shooters to pass a waterfowl identification test in Victoria (the state where freckled ducks are most vulnerable) and to make pre-season surveys of freckled duck numbers in wetlands so as to temporarily close areas to shooting.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Stictonetta naevosa". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Sraml, M.; Christidis, L.; Easteal, S.; Horn, P. & Collet, C. (1996): Molecular Relationships Within Australasian Waterfowl (Anseriformes). Australian Journal of Zoology 44(1): 47–58. doi:10.1071/ZO9960047
- "Chance to visit freckled friends", Callaghan, F. (16 April 2008). Newcastle Herald
Media related to Stictonetta naevosa at Wikimedia Commons