Blue Billed Duck
The Blue Billed Duck is a small Australian stiff-tailed duck, with both the male and female growing to a length of 40 cm (16 in). The male has a slate-blue bill which changes to bright-blue during the breeding season, hence the duck’s common name (see photo). The male has deep chestnut plumage during breeding season, reverting to a dark grey. The female retains black plumage with brown tips all year round. The duck is endemic to Australia’s temperate regions, inhabiting natural inland wetlands and also artificial wetlands such as sewage ponds in large numbers. It can be difficult to observe due to its cryptic nature during its breeding season through autumn and winter.
Male – The male Blue billed Duck has a deep chestnut body, a black head and neck, a blue beak, brown eyes, white abdomen, grey-black tail, and the legs and feet are grey.
Female – The female Blue billed Duck has a brown barred body, dark-brown head which is paler on the throat and neck, and dark-brown beak.
Eclipse – The male Blue billed Duck in eclipse plumage is similar to the female but has a darker head and neck and the flanks are pale brown or chestnut.
Size: – Typical Adult is 14-16 inches.
Food: – Aquatic plants, seeds, aquatic insects, larvae, crustaceans and molluscs.
Habitat: – Freshwater swamps, marshes, and large rivers in Western and south-eastern Australia, and Tasmania.
Breeding Season: – September to November in Western Australia and October to March in south-eastern Australia.
Eggs: – 5 to 6 (pale green or whitish color).
Notes: – The Blue billed Duck is an Australian Stiff-tail duck. The tail is usually held flat in the water but will be held erect during courtship displays or when it is being defensive.
The different types of wild ducks can be grouped into puddle, aka “dabbling” and diving ducks. The dabblers mostly feed in smaller bodies of shallow water or along shorelines, where they are able to tip their bodies forward to reach their food on the bottom. There are divers who feed in deeper water where they dive and pursue their quarry. Some of these birds, the Harlequin Duck for example, actually dives to the bottom of fast-flowing waters and feeds on life forms attached to rocks.