(von Ihering, H. & von Ihering, R., 1907)
Sarkidiornis melanotos sylvicola
The comb duck or American comb duck (Sarkidiornis sylvicola), is an unusual duck, found in tropical wetlands in continental South America south to the Paraguay River region in eastern Paraguay, southeastern Brazil and the extreme northeast of Argentina, and as a vagrant on Trinidad.
Most taxonomic authorities split this species and the knob-billed duck from each other. Some authorities, including the Clements checklist and the American Ornithological Society keep the cosmopolitan duck intact, in which case the species name melanotos is valid since it is older. The comb duck is generally smaller in size when compared to the knob-billed duck, and flanks are darker (black in males, medium grey in females).
Description and systematics
This common species is unmistakable. It is one of the largest species of duck. Length can range from 56 to 76 cm (22 to 30 in), wingspan ranges from 116 to 145 cm (46 to 57 in) and weight from 1.03 to 2.9 kg (2.3 to 6.4 lb). Adults have a white head freckled with dark spots, and a pure white neck and underparts. The upperparts are glossy blue-black upperparts, with bluish and greenish iridescence especially prominent on the secondaries (lower arm feathers). The male is much larger than the female, and has a large black knob on the bill.
If seen at a distance, immature comb ducks can also be mistaken for a fulvous whistling duck (Dendrocygna bicolor). However, knob-billed ducks in immature plumage are rarely seen without adults nearby and thus they are usually easily identified too.
Uncertainty surrounds the correct systematic placement of this species. Initially, it was placed in the dabbling duck subfamily Anatinae. Later, it was assigned to the "perching ducks", a paraphyletic assemblage of waterfowl most of which are intermediate between dabbling ducks and shelducks. As the "perching ducks" were split up, the comb duck was moved to the Tadorninae or shelduck subfamily.
Analysis of mtDNA sequences of the cytochrome b and NADH dehydrogenase subunit 2 genes, however, suggests that it is a quite basal member of the Anatidae, vindicating the earliest placement. But its closest living relatives cannot be resolved to satisfaction without further study.
This duck feeds on vegetation by grazing or dabbling and to a lesser extent on small fish, invertebrates, and seeds. It can become a problem to rice farmers. Knob-billed ducks often perch in trees. They are typically seen in flocks, small in the wet season, up to 100 in the dry season. Sometimes they separate according to sex.
Males may have two mates at once or up to five in succession. They defend the females and young but not the nest sites. Unmated males perch in trees and wait for opportunities to mate.
- BirdLife International (2016). "Sarkidiornis sylvicola". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2016: e.T22724744A94877265. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-3.RLTS.T22724744A94877265.en. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
- Bencke, Glayson Ariel (2007): Avifauna atual do Rio Grande do Sul, Brasil: aspectos biogeográficos e distribucionais ["The Recent avifauna of Rio Grande do Sul: Biogeographical and distributional aspects"]. Talk held on 22 June 2007 at Quaternário do RS: integrando conhecimento, Canoas, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil. PDF abstract
- Ogilvie & Young, Wildfowl of the World. New Holland Publishers (2004), ISBN 978-1-84330-328-2
- Hilty, Steven L. (2002). Birds of Venezuela. Princeton University Press. pp. 197–. ISBN 978-1-4008-3409-9.
- Sarkidiornis melanotos (Comb duck, Knob-billed duck). biodiversityexplorer.org
- Madge, Steve & Burn, Hilary (1987): Wildfowl: an identification guide to the ducks, geese and swans of the world. Christopher Helm, London. ISBN 0-7470-2201-1
- Johnson, Kevin P.; Sorenson, Michael D. (1999). "Phylogeny and biogeography of dabbling ducks (genus: Anas): a comparison of molecular and morphological evidence" (PDF). Auk. 116 (3): 792–805. doi:10.2307/4089339.
- Honolulu Zoo (2007): Comb Duck. Retrieved 2007-06-08.