The Hartlaub’s Duck (Pteronetta hartlaubii) is a dark chestnut-colored duck of African forests. Formerly included in the paraphyletic “perching duck” assemblage, it was later moved to the dabbling duck assemblage. However, it is fairly distinct from the “typical” dabbling ducks, and is placed in the mono-typic genus Pteronetta to reflect this.
Appearance: – The male Hartlaub’s Duck has a black head and neck and can sometimes have variable white patches on the crown, forehead and base of beak, the beak is black with a pinkish-white tip and black nail, the male’s beak can sometimes be swollen at the base during the breeding season, reddish-brown eyes, a chestnut-brown body, the tail, rump, and upper-wing are olive-brown, the upper-wing coverts are blue, and the legs and feet are a dark yellow-brown. The female Hartlaub’s Duck is similar but is slightly duller and has little or no white markings on the head.
Size: – Typical Adult is 22-23 inches.
Food: – Aquatic insects, larvae, molluscs, crustaceans, seeds, and roots.
Habitat: – Rainforests, wooded savannahs, forest streams, marshes, and vegetated pools in equatorial West and Central Africa, from Guinea and Sierra Leone east through Nigeria to Sudan, and south to Gabon, Congo and Zaire.
Breeding Season: – Unknown but most likely during the rainy season.
Eggs: – 7 to 12 (creamy-white color).
Notes: – The Hartlaub’s Duck was considered a perching duck but is now placed on its own in the genus Pteronetta. Little is known about this duck in the wild and no wild nests have been found. It most likely nests in tree hollows and perches in trees. This duck is named after the German naturalist Gustav Hartlaub. This species is considered near-threatened and has declined due to deforestation causing loss of habitat.
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.