Over recent days I have written about and showed photos of the various birds seen on a visit to the Western Plains Zoo near Dubbo, NSW. All of these birds were actually naturally occurring species; none of them were a part of the actual species on display. The wild birds knew how to benefit from the facilities – like the artificial lake near the visitor centre shown above. They also are quick to feed on any unused food put out for the animals.
Today’s post features to Hardhead – also known as the White-eyed Duck. It is found throughout much of Australia in suitable habitat, such as lakes, swamps, large bodies of water, ornamental lakes and even brackish coastal swamps. It is rare in the drier parts of the interior. Although I have only see this species in small numbers, the field guides suggest that it is occasionally seen in large groups numbering in the thousands. It is often dispersive, moving to areas after good rain.
- White-eyed Duck or Hardhead – together with some comments on the possible origins of the name.
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.
The White-eyed Duck is also known as the Hardhead. I’m not sure why. If any reader can enlighten me, please do so via the comments.
White-eyed Ducks are found throughout Australia where suitable habitat exists. Their preferred habitats include permanent wetlands, lakes, reservoirs, dams and sewage ponds. They easily move around the country in response to either drought or abundant rain.
I’ve only managed to see this species in the wild state on a handful of occasions. The photo above was taken of a captive bird in one of the enclosures at the Adelaide Zoo.