Freckled Duck Fact File

Stictonetta naevosa








Wild Unknown

Captive 18 years



Grasses and Insects

Conservation Status


Least Concern

The freckled duck is named for the white freckle-like spots which cover their body which is colored blackish-brown. During breeding season males have a red base to their bill.

Foraging takes place at dawn or dusk when they will use the cover of darkness to safely forage in the water. Here they seek out seeds, grasses and invertebrates.

Australia is the native home of the freckled duck where they live across much of the country.

These ducks have been threatened by the destruction and alteration of their habitat and hunting for recreation.

Learn more about these brilliant birds by reading on below.


Freckled ducks are sexually dimorphic during the breeding season. Throughout this period the males have a red base to their bill while outside of this the slightly concave bill is colored grey in both males and females.

Across their body the freckled duck has blackish brown feathers across the body with fine white speckles across the body which gives them their name. Females tend to have slightly paler coloration. The underside of the wing is colored off-white with brown flecks.

The iris of the eye is colored brown.

They measure 50-59cm (20-23in) long. Their wingspan is between 77 and 82cm (30 and 32in) across with a weight between 691 and 1130g (1.52 and 2.49lbs). Males tend be larger than females.

These birds are similar in appearance to the pacific black duck and hardhead which live in similar habitats.


Freckled ducks are omnivores. They feed on a range of algae, seeds, aquatic grasses, crustaceans and small invertebrates.

Food is obtained by dabbling in shallow water.

Freckled Duck


Australia is the native home of the freckled duck. Here they can be found in all states and territories except for Tasmania.

During times of drought they will move from inland areas towards the coast where they can survive in permanent wetlands.


Breeding will occur in areas of dense vegetation around ephermal (non-permanent) watercourses. Outside of breeding they will move to an open body of water. They tend to like areas with heavy growth of cumbingi, lignum or tea-tree.

They make use of man made ponds such as farm dams or sewerage areas.

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Breeding takes place from September to December with some small variations due to rainfall. When conditions are suitable outside of this they may opportunistically breed.

These birds form a nest out of twigs and down. In to this she deposits between five and fourteen eggs. These eggs are colored a pale creamy-white.

While the male is present during the incubation the female undertakes all of the work. This takes 28 days.

Hatchlings can walk and swim within hours of birth. This allows them to forage with their mother.

Chicks fledge by 9 weeks old. They grow their adult plumage between 6 and 8 months old. When this occurs they undergo a full body molt.

Sexual maturity is reached by 2 years old.


Both genders create a drawn out groan or a short, soft squeak. Males produce a noise similar to an axe grinding. When females defend their nestlings they make a chuckle. Adult males have an elongated trachea which is thought to help amplify their call.

These animals are primarily active to feed at dawn or dusk.

Freckled ducks tend to live in pairs of a small group rarely with more than 20 members.

Freckled Duck

Predators and Threats

Natural predators may include raptors.

They will dive under the water to escape a predator.

Humans have affected the freckled duck through habitat destruction or alteration such as draining swamps and flooding due to the building of dams.

Stock may trample their habitat.

Some hunting of this species occurs. Unfortunately this risk is increased when large numbers move to the coast during droughts.

Small numbers are present in the captive wildlife trade but this is not viewed as a major threat.

Currently the population is believed to be stable with between 11,000 and 26,000 individuals making this up. They are likely the rarest species of waterfowl found in Australia. If destruction of their habitat continues it could lead to another 20% decline in their population.

Quick facts

These ducks are also known as the canvasback, oatmeal duck, speckled duck of Diamantina duck.

Freckled Duck

Photo Credits

Top and Middle One

Benjamint444, GFDL 1.2 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Middle Two and Below

DickDaniels (, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


JJ Harrison (, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons


Morcombe, M., 2003. Field Guide To Australian Birds. Archerfield, Qld.: Steve Parish Pub.

The Australian Museum. 2021. Freckled Duck. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 23 June 2021].

BirdLife International. 2016. Stictonetta naevosa. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T22679836A92831716. Downloaded on 23 June 2021. 2021. Freckled Duck | BirdLife Australia. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 23 June 2021]. 2021. Freckled Duck - profile | NSW Environment, Energy and Science. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 23 June 2021].

PerthZooWebsite. 2021. Freckled Duck. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 23 June 2021].

Freckled Duck (Stictonetta naevosa) Fact Sheet. c2019. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed 23 June 2021]. freckled-duck.

Oakvale Wildlife. 2021. Freckled Duck | Our Animals | Oakvale Wildlife. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 23 June 2021].

Parks Victoria.

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