Habitat Ecology Information

What’s Lurking In Your Backyard? – #33 Australian Wood Duck

This series looks at the variety of fauna that may be found in the suburban backyard or local reserve and the diversity may be surprising to some people. The obvious fauna are the vast array of birds that are readily seen by day and some by night, but there are numerous species that are nocturnal. Some of these nocturnal species people are familiar with as they tramp across the roof at night with what sounds like hobnail boots on, or they hear fighting in the backyard over food and territory. Others are cryptic and may only be seen infrequently when they enter the house for warmth and shelter. Each week or so I will highlight a different species that may be found in and around Melbourne’s backyards, parks and reserves, some may be familiar others less so.

#33 Australian Wood Duck

(Chenonetta jubata)

For the last couple of years, we have had the pleasure of these birds nesting in a tree on the adjacent property, although unsuccessful in the breeding as no chicks have been seen. We often see them feeding on our front lawn.

Frequenting water bodies especially dams or anywhere there may be standing water especially along roadsides, they have a preference for shallow rather than deep water. This species is becoming very common with our area often in small flocks along roadsides which can bring traffic to a standstill as they wander across the road at their own pace. Of course, this often leads to fatalities if they don’t move fast enough for some drivers.

The male is quite distinctive with its dark brown head and pale grey body with two black stripes along its back. The male also has a mane which has resulted in the alternative name of Maned Duck. The female has a lighter head with two white stripes above and below the eye. Both sexes have speckled breast with the female extending to the flanks. In contrast to the male’s black underbelly the females are white.

As mentioned above this species nest in trees hollows which is a good reason to keep trees with hollows standing whether dead or alive if they do not pose a threat to life and property. They form monogamous breeding pairs that will stay together all year round with both parents taking responsibility for feeding the young birds.

The diet consists of herbaceous material such as grass, herbs, clover etc as well as some insects.

Their tendency to be found in the open on grassy verges and paddocks also makes them susceptible to domestic pet and fox attacks.

© Habitat Ecology 2020