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Freckled Duck (Stictonetta naevosa) Fact Sheet: Population & Conservation Status

Population Status

Population estimates

  • 11,000-26,000 individuals (Birdlife International 2016)
    • 7,300-17,000 mature individuals (Birdlife International 2016)
  • Widely distributed but not abundant (Frith 1967)
    • Largest populations supported by a small number of permanent marshes (Frith 1967)
  • Population trend (Birdlife International 2016 citing Wetland International – China Office 2006; Carboneras and Kirwan 2018; Kingsford, Wong, et al. 1999)
    • Considered relatively stable but probably declining over time; not globally threatened (Richard Kingsford, personal communication, 2019)
    • Declines in recent decades in regions where freshwater habitats are modified or destroyed for human activities
  • See “Conservation status by Australian state,” below

Conservation Status


  • Least Concern (2016 assessment) (Birdlife International 2016)
  • Previous assessments (Birdlife International 2016)
    • 2012: Least Concern
    • 2009: Least Concern
    • 2008: Least Concern
    • 2004: Least Concern
    • 2000: Least Concern
    • 1996: Vulnerable
    • 1994: Vulnerable
    • 1988: Threatened


Conservation status by Australian state

  • Considered threatened in some Australian states (Grossek 2000; Carboneras and Kirwan 2018; Birdlife Australia 2018, and as noted)
    • New South Wales: Vulnerable
      • Also see Smith et al. (1994)
    • South Australia: Vulnerable
    • Victoria: Endangered (Game Management Authority 2016)

Government laws and regulations

Threats to Survival

Loss of freshwater habitat

  • Greatest threat to Freckled Duck (Birdlife International 2016)
  • Water extraction and draining wetlands (Birdlife International 2016)
    • Affects flooding of important inland wetlands
  • Clearing of native vegetation (Smith et al. 1994)
  • Climate change
    • Drought and rising salinities (due to saltwater intrusion) may affect this species (Smith et al. 1994; Chambers et al. 2005; Smith et al. 2009)
  • Pollution of watersheds (Smith et al. 1994)
  • Disturbance by humans in areas used for human recreation (Carboneras and Kirwan 2018)

Illegal hunting

  • Freckled Duck protected but still likely to be shot by duck hunters (Corrick 1982; Norman and Norris 1982; Loyn 1991)
  • Mistakenly shot due to similar appearance as game species (Birdlife International 2016)
    • Hunters now required to pass Waterfowl Identification Test (see below)
  • Easy to shoot because of concentrations near water, especially during drought, and their low, circling flight (Marchant and Higgins 1990; Carboneras and Kirwan 2018)

Management Actions

Population monitoring

  • Abundance counts conducted prior to hunting season (Carboneras and Kirwan 2018)
    • Began in Victoria in 1987
  • Surveyed regularly across a third of the Australian continent each year and also during a national survey (e.g., Kingsford and Porter 2009; Kingsford et al. 2012)
  • Community groups encouraged to report sightings (Grossek 2000)
  • Also see this news story and the Eastern Australian Waterbird Survey

Area closures

  • Australian Ministry can temporarily close wetlands to limit Freckled Duck’s exposure to illegal hunting (Loyn 1991; Grossek 2000)

Waterfowl Identification Test

  • Licensed hunters must be able to correctly identify Freckled Duck on video (Loyn 1991; Grossek 2000; Carboneras and Kirwan 2018)
    • Mandatory, as of 1990 (Grossek 2000)

A Rare Waterbird

Freckled Duck rests on branch

The Freckled Duck is the rarest duck in Australia.

The main threats to the Freckled Duck are the loss of freshwater habitat, and illegal and accidental hunting.

Image credit: © Ed Dunens via Flickr. CC by 2.0; some rights reserved.

Image location: Lake Wendouree, Victoria, Australia

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