Freckled Duck Click to enlarge image
Freckled Duck Image: Ed Dunens
creative commons

Fast Facts

  • NSW Conservation Status
    Vulnerable species
  • Classification
  • Size Range
    48 cm to 59 cm

During the breeding season, the male Freckled Duck's bill becomes crimson at the base.


The Freckled Duck is a dark greyish-brown duck with a large head that is peaked at the rear, and a distinctive narrow and slightly upturned bill. The dark brown plumage is evenly freckled all over with white or buff. During the breeding season the male's bill becomes crimson at the base.


The Freckled Duck prefers permanent fresh water swamps and creeks with heavy growth of cumbungi (bullrushes), lignum or tea-tree. During drier times, the Freckled Duck moves from ephemeral (not permanent) breeding swamps to more permanent waters such as lakes, reservoirs, farm dams and sewerage ponds. They generally rest in dense cover.


The Freckled Duck is found primarily in the south east and south west of Australia, occurring as a vagrant elsewhere. It breeds in large temporary swamps created by floods in the Bulloo and Lake Eyre Basins and the Murray Darling System.


The Freckled Duck is forced to disperse during long inland droughts. The species may occur as far south as coastal New South Wales and Victoria during such times.

Feeding and diet

Freckled Ducks feed at dawn and dusk and at night on algae, seeds and vegetative parts of aquatic grasses and sedges and small invertebrates.


As a contact call a soft musical piping. Alarm call a flute like 'wheeooo'. At nest, in display, loud discordant 'quacks'.

Breeding behaviours

Nesting usually occurs between October and December but can take place at other times when conditions are favourable. Nests are usually located at or near water level, and are made from finely woven twigs with a layer of down. Males remain with females during early incubation, but the female does all of the incubation and rearing of the young.

  • Breeding Season: September to December, but varies with rainfall.
  • Clutch size: Five to fourteen.
  • Incubation: 28 days

Conservation status

Threats to the Freckled Duck include draining and clearing of wetlands and swamp habitat; changes to natural river flow and flood as a result of dams, weirs and irrigation, grazing and trampling of wetland habitat by stock, and illegal shooting. This species is listed as Vulnerable in New South Wales.


  • Marchant, S. and Higgins, P.J. (eds.), 1990. Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds. Vol. 1. Part B. Oxford University Press: Melbourne.
  • Simpson, K and Day, N. 1999. Field guide to the birds of Australia, 6th Edition. Penguin Books, Australia.
  • Morecombe M. 1986 The Great Australian Birdfinder. Lansdowne, Australia.