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< >  Oxyura maccoa - Maccoa duck (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

Afrikaruderente (German)
Afrikanische Ruderente (German)
Erismature maccoa (French)
Malvasía maccoa (Spanish)
Pato maccao (Spanish)

Names for newly-hatched

Duckling, downy.

Names for non-breeding males or other colour-phases


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Species Author

Debra Bourne

Major References

B1, B3, B6, B8, B19, B25.

Aviculture references:
B29, B30, B40, B94
D1, D8

Other References

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TAXA Group (where information has been collated for an entire group on a modular basis)

Parent Group

Specific Needs Group referenced in Management Techniques

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Aviculture Information


General information:
  • Stiff-tails are generally hardy. They are extremely aquatic and do best on large ponds of variable depth, with clean, deep water and plenty of natural food available in the form of marginal aquatic plants, while a muddy pond bottom will provide food items such as tubifex worms. Duckweed and small-sized seeds such as millet and canary seed mixtures are preferred to conventional waterfowl feeds, although wheat and pellets will be taken if natural food is scarce, for example in hard winter weather. Ample marginal vegetation (e.g. rushes, sedge, juncus reed) should be available for general cover and for nesting, with nesting rafts also provided.
  • Most species (not Maccoa ducks) are sociable and do best in groups rather than as a single pair; males will fight, but usually for only a short period, some degree of pursuit and rape of ducks is also likely. They can be very aggressive in nest site defence, therefore in mixed collections they should be kept on a water area sufficiently large for other ducks to escape.
  • Stiff-tail ducklings should preferably be reared with access to water from e.g. two days old, with sufficient depth for diving provided even at an early age, although enforced drying off periods between short swims may be advisable initially. Duckweed is a useful starter food for these species, although attached daphnia and water snails may carry parasites.

(J23.13.w8, B29, B30, B40, B94).

Species-specific information:

  • Maccoa ducks are shy and retiring; they are best maintained in a pair or trio in a separate pen, or may be kept with other larger duck species. They should have deep water (1m or more) provided for diving.
  • These ducks are difficult to breed. They will use rafts for breeding, laying eggs usually May to June.

(B29, D1).

Aviornis UK Ringing Scheme recommended average closed ring size: K 10.0mm (D8).

Management Techniques

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length 19-20" 48-51cm (B3); 46-51cm (B1)
Adult weight General 450-700g (B3); 516-820g (B1); 0.91.8 lb. (B8)
Male --
Female --
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate --

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Adult Bill Male Blue, swollen at base.
Variations (If present) Female grey.
Eyes (Iris) Male Brown.
Variations(If present) --
Juvenile Bill Grey.
Eyes (Iris) Brown.

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Adult Male Grey.
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Grey.

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Adult Male Head and upper neck black, sometimes with white eyering; lower neck and body chestnut with central abdomen and undertail coverts whitish. Tail dark grey, wings dark brown.
Variations (If present) Female: dorsal head to eye-level dark brown, sides of head whitish with dark horizontal line below eyes. Underparts dull brown with buff markings, particularly on flanks, central abdomen whitish. Upperparts dark brown, wing dark brown.

Eclipse male: As female but darker dorsal head.

Juvenile Similar to female, but duller.

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

General: Upperparts brown, underparts white. Sides of head white below eye with thin dark line across.
Bill: Grey.
Feet: Grey.

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Reproductive Season

Time of year Prolonged breeding season (up to 10 months), but dependent on high water levels and peak of breeding September to December.
No. of Clutches --

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Nest placement and structure

In thick emergent vegetation (particularly cattails) over water, sometimes using old coot (Fulica spp.) and grebe nests; infrequently in dry scrub on land. Basin formed from leaves of cattails, sometimes with a partial covering dome of reed stems, and lined with down.

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average 5-6 (B8)
Range 4-8 (B1); 4-10 (B8). More in dump-nests.
Egg Description Bluish-white. Size: 68 x 50mm. Weight: 96g (B3).

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25-27 days (B1); 23-27 days (B8).

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63-70 days (B8).

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Sexual Maturity

Males --
Females --

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Feeding Behaviour

Adults Dive to sieve the bottom mud.
Newly-hatched --

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Parental Behaviour

Nest-building Single pairs or loose groups several females may nest in the territory of one male.
Incubation By female alone.
Newly-hatched Tended and defended by female for about five weeks.

Ducklings remain together for three weeks or more after being deserted by their mother.

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Social Behaviour

Intra-specific Males are highly territorial and aggressive. Usually found in pairs or family groups, although non-breeders gather in small parties.
Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour


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Predation in Wild


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Activity Patterns

Doze on the water during the day.
Circadian Nocturnal feeders.

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Natural Diet


Seeds of aquatic plants, plant debris, insects, insect larvae and crustaceans.

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)


East Africa from Ethiopia and eastern Sudan to northern Tanzania; Southern Africa from Namibia and Zimbabwe to Cape Province.

Mainly sedentary; local movements in the dry season.

Occasional and Accidental




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Shallow fresh waters with extensive reedbeds and open areas. Larger lakes and brackish waters out of breeding season.

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Intraspecific variation


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Conservation Status

Wild Population -

Not globally threatened. Generally at low density but locally common. Estimated 31,000-50,000 birds (B1, B8).

CITES listing --
Red-data book listing --
Threats --

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Captive Populations

Present in captivity, but few in the USA (B8).

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