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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Anatidae (ducks, geese and swans)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Anseriformes

Species indigenous to southern Africa

Oxyura maccoa (Maccoa duck) 

A diving duck with distinctive stiff tail that it either keeps flat with the water surface or sticks up in the air. It is the only stiff-tailed duck species in the region. The distribution is divided between a population in East Africa and the Ethiopian Highlands and another population within southern Africa, where it is widely dispersed. They feed mainly on bottom-dwelling invertebrates.

Alopochen aegyptiaca (Egyptian goose)

A large brown to buff duck, easily distinguished from other ducks by its large size, the dark brown eye patch and the brown patch in the middle of the buff-coloured breast. Male and female look similar but the male is larger; easiest distinguished on the basis of their call: whereas the male hisses mainly, the female honks mainly. The Egyptian goose is one of the most commonly encountered birds in southern Africa, found on wetlands, in croplands and in urban areas. It is almost exclusively herbivorous feeding on grass, seeds and aquatic plants. 

Tadorna cana (South African shelduck) 

Predominantly light chestnut coloured with a grey head in the male and a grey head with variable amounts of white in the female. Endemic to southern Africa, found mainly on waterbodies in semi-arid and grassland regions. Feeds in the water on aquatic invertebrates and algae, and on land on grain in crop fields. 


Plectropterus gambensis (Spur-winged goose) 

The largest duck or goose in Africa, weighing up to 7.45 kg. Widely distributed in Sub-Saharan Africa and with broad habitat preferences. Eats mainly plant matter, either from in and around water bodies or on dry land (seedlings and grain from crop lands are a favourite, which make them unpopular with farmers) . However, they do eat insects (e.g. termite alates) and young are known to catch and eat small fish. 

Sarkidiornis melanotos (Comb duck, Knob-billed duck) 

The comb duck is so called because the male has a round knob on top of the bill, which is particulary prominent in the breeding season (the word comb can mean the comb you use for your hair but also has a number of meanings relating to a crest). These large distinctive ducks are blue-black on the back, white on the front, and the head is white overlaid by black speckles. In the breeding season, males hold territories to which they often attract more than one female (polygynous).

Nettapus auritus (African pygmy-goose, Pygmy goose) 

Netta erythrophthalma (Southern pochard) 

The Southern pochard is common, and has a population scattered across southern Africa. It lives in wetlands, where it feeds mainly on the seeds and leaves of aquatic plants. It is a monogamous, solitary nester, the female building its nest out of leaves and stems, placed on embankments surrounded by dense vegetation.

Anas acuta (Northern pintail, Pintail) 

Anas capensis (Cape teal) 

The Cape teal is found mostly in South Africa, where it is especially abundant in the Western Cape. It prefers to live in salty, brackish vleis, often with dense reeds, and is also very common in sewerage ponds. It is nomadic, although it rarely moves more than 250  km. It feeds mainly on insects, with about a quarter of its diet dedicated to plant matter. The female builds the nest, which is a shallow bowl in the ground, filled with aquatic vegetation and feathers.

Anas clypeata (Northern shoveler, Northern shoveller) 

Anas erythrorhyncha (Red-billed teal)

The Red-billed teal is the most common duck in South Africa, and is also one of the most common ducks in southern Africa. It lives in inland wetlands, artificial or natural, breeding in temporary pans and dams. It is nomadic, rapidly locating new temporary pans and vleis, rarely moving more than 250 km. It feeds mainly on seeds, with smaller quantities of invertebrates.

Anas hottentota (Hottentot teal) 

The Hottentot teal is uncommon to locally common, preferring to live in permanent, shallow wetlands with tall, emergent vegetation. Its diet varies greatly with different regions, although it usually it eats more animals than it does plant matter. Interestingly, the pair bond barely lasts for the incubation period, after which the female does all the work.

Anas platyrhynchos (Mallard) 

Anas querquedula (Garganey) 

Anas smithii (Cape shoveler, Cape shoveller) 

The Cape shoveler is found manly in South Africa, where it is particularly common in the Western Cape and Kruger National Park. It feeds mainly on animals, with smaller quantities of plant matter. The female builds the nest, which is a scrape in the ground, filled with leaves, and completely surrounded by thick vegetation. It lays 5-13 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female, for 27-31 days. The chicks are taken care of by their mother, with the male helping by chasing predators away. The chicks can usually fly at 63 days, after which they become independent.

Anas sparsa (African black duck) 

The African black duck is fairly common in both South Africa and Zimbabwe, with small populations in other countries in southern Africa. It is a river specialist, rarely straying away from rivers and streams. Its diet is not well known, but it is thought to eat more invertebrates than it does plant products.

Anas undulata (Yellow-billed duck)

The Yellow-billed duck is found mainly in South Africa, where it is very common. It lives in most types of wetlands, as long as they are still-bodied and not saline. The adults feed mainly feed on plants, while the juveniles eat mainly invertebrates. The female builds the nest, which is a shallow depression in the ground, lined with fine plant matter. It lays 2-10 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female, for 26-29 days. The chicks are cared for by their mother, and take their first flight at 68 days old. They become fully independent 6 weeks after fledging. 


Domesticated species

Anser anser (Greylag Goose).