The Hardhead Duck is the only true diving duck found in Australia. Hardheads are common in the south-east of Australia, particularly in the Murray-Darling Basin, but also in the wetter country near the coasts. They are moderately nomadic in normal years, but disperse widely in times of drought. Significant numbers reach as far afield as New Guinea, New Zealand, and the islands of the Pacific, where they can remain for some time, even breeding for a season or two.
Male – The male Hardhead Duck has a uniform chocolate-brown plumage above, with white under-sides and white under tail. The under wings are white edged with brown. The male has striking white eyes and the beak is blackish with a blue-white bar across the tip.
Female – The female Hardhead Duck is similar but has brown eyes and has a paler brown plumage.
Size: – Typical Adult is 18-23 inches.
Food: – Aquatic plants, seeds, weeds, invertebrates, molluscs, and aquatic insects. They feed by diving deeply, staying submerged for up to a minute at a time.
Habitat: – Wetlands, deep lakes, swamps, rivers, and flooded grassland, they are widespread throughout Australia (mainly in the south-east), also occasionally found in New Zealand, and New Guinea.
Breeding Season: – August to November.
Eggs: – 9-12 (creamy-white color).
Notes: – The Hardhead Duck is the only true diving duck in Australia and is sometimes called the white-eyed Duck due to the male’s striking white eyes.
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.