There are two commonly accepted common names for this duck: Hardhead and White-eyed duck.
The second name is self explanatory and most appropriate. It always helps in the process of identification.
The name “Hardhead” is also commonly used, but its origins are far from obvious. The initial use of this name seems to come from the early days of settlement in Australia. According to one reference book (see below) it was the name given by early shooters. “While there is no evidence that its skull is particularly solid Frith (1967) commented that ‘owing to a very dense plumage and apparently great stamina, [it] is hard to kill.’ It presumably arose spontaneously” because it was already in use in 1898.
The photos on this post were taken of several ducks on one of the ponds in Centennial Park, Sydney, earlier this year. The last photo is of a female; note the lack of a white eye.
Fraser, I and Gray, J 2013: Australian Bird names: a complete guide. CSIRO Publishing, Collingwood, Victoria.
Frith H J, 1967, Waterfowl in Australia. Angus and Robertson, Sydney.
Yesterday I had the privilege of speaking about Australian Birds, and showing some of my bird photos, at our local Mobilong Ladies Probus Club. There were just over 100 attentive women at the meeting, they all appeared to enjoy my presentation and they even laughed at my jokes!
One of them asked me a very difficult question, one I couldn’t answer: What is a baby pelican called?
Many birds and animals have specific names for their young, eg cygnets for swans, cubs for bears and kittens for cats. It seems however that no-one has got around to giving a special name to baby pelicans. So be it.
An extensive search online has revealed that one person calls them “toddlers”, an entirely appropriate name reflecting their waddling gait when quite young. This could also be just a tongue-in-cheek suggestion, and the site where it appeared is not at all authoritative in any way.
So I guess we’ll just have to make do with “chicks” or “nestlings” like the vast majority of birds.