White-headed duck

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White-headed duck
Male in summer
Female white headed duck.JPG
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Subfamily: Oxyurinae
Genus: Oxyura
Species: O. leucocephala
Binomial name
Oxyura leucocephala
(Scopoli, 1769)
Oxyura leucocephala distribution.svg
Oxyura leucocephala range

The white-headed duck (Oxyura leucocephala) is a small stiff-tailed duck.

Adult males have a grey and reddish body, a blue bill and a largely white head with a black cap and neck. Adult females have a grey-brown body with a white face and a darker bill, cap and a cheek stripe. Length is 43–48 cm (17–19 in) and weight is 580–750 g (1.28–1.65 lb).

Male in winter
Egg, Collection Museum Wiesbaden

This duck breeds in Spain and North Africa, with a larger population in western and central Asia. Their breeding habitat is large tracts of open water with dense stands of aquatic plants to provide cover and nesting sites. Individuals are fairly frequently reported well north of their breeding range, but as with many wildfowl the status of these extra-limital records is clouded by the possibility of escapes from collections.

These birds dive and swim underwater. They are omnivorous, with vegetable matter predominating. They are reluctant to fly, preferring to swim for cover.

This duck is considered endangered due to a large reduction in populations in the last ten years. Most of this decline is due to habitat loss and hunting, but interbreeding of the Spanish population with the introduced ruddy duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) is a more recent threat. This has led to the attempted eradication of the American species from western Europe.

The white-headed duck is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.


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