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Freckled Duck (Stictonetta naevosa) Fact Sheet: Summary

Freckled Duck (Stictonetta naevosa) Fact Sheet

Freckled Duck on water

Freckled Duck, Stictonetta naevosa

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

Image location: Lake Wendouree, Victoria, Australia


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Anseriformes — ducks, geese, swans, screamers, waterfowl

Family: Anatidae — ducks, geese, swans

Genus: Stictonetta

Species: Stictonetta naevosa — Freckled Duck

Sources: Carboneras and Kirwan (2018); Integrated Taxonomic Information System (2018)

Body Weight
Male: 747-1130 g (1.65-2.49 lb)
Female: 691-985 g (1.52-2.17 lb)

Head-body Length
500-560 mm (20-22 in)

Average Wing Length
Male: 234 mm (9.21 in)
Female: 222 mm (8.74 in)

770-820 mm (30-32 in)

Mostly dark brown with small, light-colored "freckles" on head and upperparts. From a distance, appear almost black. Distinctive coppery sheen in flight. Underparts paler.

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

Mainly southwestern and southeastern Australia. Often inhabits temporary wetlands in semi-arid and arid Australia.

Freshwater and inland saltwater habitats where there is abundant invertebrate food. Marshes, lakes, creeks, lagoons, billabongs, and some wastewater/sewage reservoirs.

IUCN Status
IUCN Status: Least Concern (2016 assessment)

CITES Appendix
Not listed

Other Designations
Protected throughout Australia. Considered threatened in New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia.

Populations in the Wild
11,000-26,000 (7,300-17,000 mature) individuals

Waddle-like walk, similar to most ducks. Fly with neck low—distinctive “hunched appearance.” Run on water’s surface during takeoff.

Activity Cycle
Rest and remain inconspicuous during the day. At dusk, fly to shore to feed and remain there through the night.

Social Groups
Pairs or small groups (usually 5-6 birds, rarely more than 20), except during dry/non-breeding season when many ducks concentrate around scarce water resources. May form large flocks (reports of up to a few thousand individuals) in exceptionally dry years. Nest solitarily.

Algae, aquatic plants, seeds, grasses, aquatic insects and their larvae, zooplankton, crustaceans.

Not reported. Possibly raptors and egg predators.

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

Sexual Maturity
About 2 years in managed care. Not reported for individuals in the wild.

Breeding Season
Broadly, June-December. Strongly influenced by rainfall and wetland availability.

Mating System
Short-term sequential monogamous pairs

Incubation Period
26-31 days

Clutch Size
7 eggs, on average (range: 5-10)

Interclutch Interval
Unknown. One exceptional case of a female laying 72 eggs over 7 months (average of 6 days between clutches). For birds in managed care Slimbridge in England, females lay up to 4 clutches per year.

Weight at Hatching
About 40-50 g (1-2 oz) [needs confirmation]

Age at Fledging
7-9 weeks

Typical Life Expectancy
Wild populations: unknown
Managed care: no AZA estimates

Feature Facts

  • Adult male’s upper bill turns red at the base during breeding
  • Generally silent or make very quiet calls
  • Vigorously defend nest site
  • Elongated trachea in adult male may amplify calls when visual communication not possible
  • Loss of freshwater habitat is the greatest threat to this species. Causes include building of dams, diversion of water from rivers, and separation of floodplains from water supplies.
  • Freckled Ducks in managed care enjoy lettuce, and tubs of water for splashing and play
  • San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance hatched its first Freckled Duck in 2018

About This Fact Sheet

For detailed information, click the tabs at the top of this page.


© 2019 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance


How to cite: Freckled Duck (Stictonetta naevosa) Fact Sheet. c2019. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. freckled-duck.
(note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2018 Dec 31)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to


Many thanks to Prof. Richard Kingsford for providing expert content review of this fact sheet.

Prof. Kingsford has studied the ecology of Australian rivers, wetlands, and waterbirds for more than 30 years. As Professor of Environmental Science and Director of the Centre for Ecosystem Science at the University of New South Wales–Sydney, he is a well-known expert on water use and river policy in Australia, as well as how water/wetland management practices influence wildlife populations and distributions.

Some of Prof. Kingsford’s other recent work has investigated the use of new technologies for monitoring bird breeding colonies, how citizen scientists can help to monitor bird biodiversity, and the habitat use of aquatic Australian mammals and reptiles.

Prof. Kingsford has been recognized with several prestigious awards for his research and science communication efforts, including Wetlands International’s Luc Hoffmann Medal for Wetland Science and Conservation and the Australian Museum’s Eureka Prize.

In addition to research and teaching, Prof. Kingsford also serves as a scientific advisor to many communities and governments in the Murray-Darling Basin region.

To learn more about Prof. Kingsford, view his UNSW research profile.

Thank you to Fatima Lujan for sharing her knowledge of bird husbandry for the Managed Care section of this fact sheet.

Ms. Lujan, Senior Keeper at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, has been a bird keeper for 15 years. Her passion for birds was first sparked while caring for a Red-tailed Hawk at the Virginia Zoo. At the Safari Park, Ms. Lujan is part of the team that cares for the birds of Walkabout Australia and Condor Ridge.

Thank you to Phoebe Vaughan for sharing her knowledge of duck husbandry for the Managed Care section of this fact sheet.

Ms. Vaughan, an aviculturist at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre for the past 10 years, is responsible for the breeding, health, and welfare of many kinds of waterfowl and endangered birds. She also helps to lead Slimbridge’s conservation education efforts by giving visitor tours, sharing her expertise at public events and on television programs, and writing Slimbridge’s Duck Diary blog. This is her May 2016 post about the breeding of Freckled Duck at Slimbridge. To learn more about Phoebe, see her interview with WWT.

Male During Breeding

Male Frecked Duck with red bill base

During breeding, male Freckled Ducks develop a distinctive red bill patch at the base of their bill.

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

Image location: Lake Wendouree, Victoria, Australia

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