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< >  Anas sparsa - African black duck (Click photographs/illustrations: full picture & further details)
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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

Black river duck
Black duck
Canard noir (French)
Canard noir d’Afrique (French)
Schwarzente (German)
Anade negro (Spanish)
Pato negro africano (Spanish)
West African black duck (Anas sparsa leucostigma)
Ethiopian black duck (Anas sparsa leucostigma)
Abyssinian black duck (Anas sparsa leucostigma)
South African black duck (Anas sparsa sparsa)
Gabon black duck Anas sparsa maclatchyi = Anas sparsa leucostigma.
Melananas sparsa
Speculanas sparsa

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, B5, B8, B25, B26.

Aviculture references:
B7, B29, B30, B40, B94, B128.w1,B128.w2,
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:
  • Dabbling Ducks are generally hardy, easy to maintain and easy to breed. Shelter may be required by some of the smaller species in winter. They should be provided with cover (including marginal pond cover) and loafing areas as well as water. A pen which is 50% water is suggested. The water may be shallow (i.e. no more than two feet deep is required), and muddy areas for dabbling in are also appreciated. These ducks are generally good in mixed collections, although the smaller and quieter species may be bullied. Territorial disputes between ducks of the same species may be avoided by keeping only one pair of each species in an enclosure, unless the area is very large. For a single pair of ducks a pen are of 50 to 100 square metres, depending on the size of duck, should be provided.
  • A diet based on wheat and pellets is suggested, with maintenance pellets changed to breeders pellets for the breeding season. Bread and greenfood are also appreciated. Grit should always be available, with soluble grit (e.g. oystershell grit) as a calcium source when breeding.
  • Most species are ground nesters and both close ground cover and ground level nest boxes should be provided. Hand-rearing is generally preferred, as these ducks are generally poor parents in captive conditions, particularly in enclosures shared with other waterfowl. These ducks are prone to hybridization, particularly with closely related species, which should be kept apart from one another.

(B7, B29, B30, B40, B94, B128.w1, D1)

Species-specific information:

  • African black ducks are territorial and aggressive, and can be secretive; a separate enclosure is suggested for a pair of these ducks. Cover and loafing areas should be provided as well as shallow water.
  • This species is difficult to breed. They use close ground cover or a ground-level nest box for breeding, and lays end of April to June.

(J23.13.w7, B29, B30, B128.w2, D1).

Aviornis UK Ringing Scheme recommended average ring size: L 11.0mm (D8).

Management Techniques

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External Appearance (Morphology)

Measurement & Weight

Length 20-23 inches, 51-58cm (B1, B3).
Adult weight General 952-1077g (B1).
Male One male weighed 2.4 lbs. (B8).
Female 952-1077g (B3); Four females ranged from 1.8-2.4 lbs. (B8).
Newly-hatched weight --
Growth rate --

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Adult Bill Male Anas sparsa sparsa: Blue grey, with nail and part of culmen (dorsal stripe) black.
Variations (If present) Anas sparsa leucostigma: Pinkish with nail and part of culmen (dorsal stripe) black.
Eyes (Iris) Male Brown.
Variations(If present) --
Juvenile Bill Dusky grey.
Eyes (Iris) Brown.

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Adult Male Brownish yellow to orange-yellow.
Variations (If present) --
Juvenile Brownish yellow to orange-yellow.

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Adult Male Black-brown with upperparts, rear flanks, ventral region and tail having white/buff barring (bold bars on scapulars and tertials). Primaries plain brown, secondaries metallic blue-green with black then white tips, greater coverts have white-then-black tips (speculum bordered by white and black anterior and posterior stripes).
Variations (If present) Anas sparsa leucostigma barring buff rather than than white/buff.
Juvenile Plainer brown, upperparts markings buff if present, dusky whitish abdomen.

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Newly-hatched Characteristics

General: Upperparts black with three pairs pale yellow spots, underparts, chin, throat and foreneck white, dark breast band, sides of head yellow with two parallel black lines, one through eye, other lower.
Bill: Dark grey.
Feet: Brownish.

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Reproductive Season

Time of year Variation depending on location. July-February in South Africa, January-July in Ethiopia.
No. of Clutches May re-nest if brood is lost.

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Nest placement and structure

On an island or close to running water, on the ground in driftwood, reedbeds or grassy riverbanks, sometimes in tree hole; nest has thick down lining.

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Egg clutches

No. of Eggs Average --
Range 4-8 (B1); 4-9 (B8)
Egg Description Light cream to buff (B8). Size: 59 x 45mm, weight: 68g (B3).

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About 28 days (B1); 28-30 days (B8).

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About 86 days (B1); 63-80 days (B8).

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Sexual Maturity

Males --
Females --

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Feeding Behaviour

Adults Dabbles at surface, head-dips, upends. Also dive in the rapids of fast streams.
Newly-hatched --

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Parental Behaviour

Nest-building Nest as solitary pairs.
Incubation By female.
Newly-hatched Tended by female, for the first week may be brooded on the nest at night or in bad weather.

Disperse one or two months after fledging.

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Social Behaviour

Intra-specific Only found as pairs or small (family) groups.
Inter-specific --

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Sexual Behaviour

Pair bonds are strong and may last two years or more.

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Predation in Wild


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Activity Patterns

Juveniles and non-breeding adults may move to open waters to roost at night.
Circadian Basically diurnal.

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Natural Diet


Omnivorous, mainly carnivorous. Insect larvae, pupae, small fish, also weeds and aquatic vegetation.

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Range and Habitat

Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Normal Anas sparsa leucostigma (Ethiopian black duck) western Equatorial Africa, East Africa south to Zimbabwe.

Anas sparsa sparsa (South African black duck) southern Africa, south of Zimbabwe.

Occasional and Accidental




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Mountainous fast-flowing streams and rivers in wooded areas, but also lakes, lagoons, reservoirs in open country.

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Intraspecific variation

Ethiopian black duck (Anas sparsa leucostigma).
South African black duck (Anas sparsa sparsa).

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Conservation Status

Wild Population -

Not threatened, widespread (B1).

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

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Captive Populations

Reasonably represented in collections (Anas sparsa sparsa - South African black duck), but only a few Anas sparsa leucostigma (Ethiopian black duck) (B8).

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