|Natural Range of Heteronetta atricapilla|
This is the most basal living member of its subfamily, and it lacks the stiff tail and swollen bill of its relatives. Overall much resembling a fairly typical diving duck, its plumage and other peculiarities indicate it is not a very close relative of these, but rather the product of convergent evolution in the ancestors of the stiff-tailed ducks. It is a small, dark duck, the male with a black head and mantle and a paler flank and belly, and the female pale brown overall.
Distribution and habitat
The black-headed duck is an obligate brood parasite (meaning the female does not build a nest). It lays its eggs in the nests of other birds, instead, earning it the nickname cuckoo duck. The hosts are (particularly) rosy-billed pochard (Netta peposaca), other ducks, coots (Fulica species), and occasionally even gulls (such as the brown-hooded gull) and birds of prey. Unlike some cuckoos, neither the chicks nor adults destroy the eggs or kill the chicks of the host. Instead, after a 21-day incubation, the ducklings fledge and after a few hours are completely independent, leaving their broodmates and fending for themselves. In contrast with the brood parasitic passerines (family Viduidae and genus Molothrus), whose young are altricial, black-headed duck ducklings are precocial.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Heteronetta atricapilla". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
- Livezey, Bradley C. (1986). "A phylogenetic analysis of recent anseriform genera using morphological characters" (PDF). Auk. 103 (4): 737–754.
- McCracken, Kevin G.; Harshman, John; McClellan, David A. & Afton, Alan D. (1999). "Data Set Incongruence and Correlated Character Evolution: An Example of Functional Convergence in the Hind-Limbs of Stifftail Diving Ducks" (PDF). Systematic Biology. 48 (4): 683–714. doi:10.1080/106351599259979. PMID 12066296. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 June 2011.
- David Attenborough, Nature of the Cuckoo Duck, The Life of Birds, BBC Episode 9, 19 minutes ff.