Ann Somerville-Charles: The goose duck

Family groups of Australian wood ducks are a common sight in many public places along the Fleurieu Peninsula.  It is not unusual to encounter two determined parents with a large following of chicks as they march in single file across a busy road.  Such a stately procession often brings traffic to a complete halt!

  The Australian wood duck is a bird of 44cms to 50cms.  Its small head, long neck and short black pointed bill give it a goose-like appearance.  This species walks easily on land and the claws in its webbed feet assist with climbing and perching in trees.  Male birds have a dark brown head with a short black mane and a grey body with a speckled brown breast. Female birds have a paler brown head, a white line above and below the eyes and a speckled grey-brown body and breast.  

  Australian wood ducks form monogamous pair bonds.  During the spring, nests are built in hollow tree cavities above or near water.  Females incubate the eggs while males stand guard. Clutches consist of 8 – 11 eggs.  Soon after hatching, chicks jump out of the nest to join their parents who are calling to them from the ground below.  Both parents care for offspring. Birds graze on land and dabble in shallow water. Diet consists of grasses, grains and plants.  

  Australian wood ducks live mostly on land near water and, unlike other duck species, seldom swim on the open water.  Their habitat includes grasslands, open woodlands, wetlands, flooded pastures, coastal inlets and bays, farmland with dams, rice fields, sewage ponds and urban parks.  Australian wood ducks are endemic to Australia. They are common throughout the country, except in extremely arid regions. Two of my favourite locations to observe them in Victor Harbor are Warland Reserve and the library wetlands.

Written by Ann Somerville-Charles (artist, composer and poet) of Victor Harbor.