Male has a black crown contrasting with a puffy white face and throat with a blackish "thumbprint" at the ear. Back and sides of neck, breast spotted with black. Tawny buff flanks and abdomen. Back, rump and tail dark brown to black. Upper tail covers vermiculated with black. Upper wing surface mostly dark brown to black. The secondaries form an iridescent green speculum. Feet and bill are bluish gray. Females have browner crowns and less contrasting facial markings. A very small duck averaging only 12 to 14 inches in length.
GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
An African species ranging from Angola, Zambia and the eastern Congo to Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia, south nearly to the Cape. Also resident in Madagascar. Live in shallow fresh water marshes and ponds with fringed edges of reeds and floating leaf plants.
Grass seeds, water insects and insect larvae. They forage by dabbling, not diving.
LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
Breeds mostly during the summer. Courtship involves the males swimming ahead of the females and turning the back of the head. The male may also drink and raise its head producing small "burping" noises. Birds may wing-flap and wing-stretch together. Pre copulatory behavior consists of mutual head pumping. The nest is of reeds or grass covered with dark down. The female lays from 6 to 8 eggs and incubates for 24-27 days. Pair formation occurs annually.
The bird is well adapted to shallow water. Its small bill allows it to take only small seeds.
Its small size means that it has rarely been hunted as a game bird. It is relatively tame and is often kept by water bird fanciers.
STATUS IN WILD:
Not endangered, but on Appendix III of CITES (listed as threatened by a specific country).