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A hard head?

September 30, 2019

Hardhead female with grebe

An elegant female Hardhead has taken up residence on our dam this month – the first sighting here since 2013. She can often be seen gliding serenely around the dam in the company of other waterbirds, such as the Australasian Grebe and Pacific Black Duck shown here.

Hardhead female with black duck

The Hardhead is the only Australian representative of the true diving ducks or pochards. It’s an efficient swimmer and swift flyer, but a clumsy walker. It likes deep water, usually keeping well away from shore. Being a diver, it can reach food inaccessible to other ducks – its diet can include aquatic insects, crustaceans and submerged vegetation.

Hardhead male

The male Hardhead has a conspicuous white eye (see photo below), which gave rise to its previous name, White-eyed Duck. The “Hardhead” monicker was apparently given to it by shooters who considered it hard to kill due to its dense plumage and reputed stamina (from Australian Bird Names, Fraser & Gray).

It is still a permitted game species in the annual Victorian duck season, despite its conservation status in Victoria being listed as “Vulnerable”, meaning it is considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.

As they say, go figure!

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