Hardhead duck

Australische witoogeend

Hardhead duck (Aythya australis)

The Hardhead duck (Aythya australis) is a diving duck from the family of water birds that includes ducks, geese, and swans (Anatidae).

Species name

Dutch name:
Australische witoogeend
English name:
Hardhead duck
German name:
Australische Moorente
French name:
Fuligule austral
Scientific name:
Aythya australis

Scientific classification




The male has a bright reddish brown plumage. The plumage is almost shiny on the head and chest. The flanks, back and tail are of a slightly darker reddish brown. The tail undercover is white and the lower abdomen is also white. The wing side is white with a narrow brown border. The beak is dark gray and has a striking gray-blue band just before the nail.

The resting gown corresponds to the dress of the female. This is very similar to the male, but has an altogether duller plumage color. The beak coloring corresponds to the male, but is somewhat less noticeable overall.

Not yet fully grown Hardhead ducks have a similar to the female plumage. They are a bit paler overall. At the chin and throat this paler coloration is noticeable. The iris is still hazel-brown. The beak is still dark lead gray.

Standard Measurements

Body Length (cm):
The male (drake) of the Hardhead duck measures approximately 42-59 centimeters. The female measures approximately 39-56 centimeters.
Body Weight (grams):
The male will weight about 800-900 gram. The female will weight about 800-900 gram.
The weight is notoriously variable and can only be used as indication!

Hardheads are diving ducks which spend most of their time on water, and are ungainly on land. They are generally hardy, sociable and easy to maintain in captivity. They should be kept with deep water available for diving, three to seven feet suggested, or at least half the area 60cm and preferably one metre deep, with shallow sloping banks for easy exit from the water, also islands, good marginal vegetation and loafing areas. Water providing a good supply of natural animal and vegetable food is preferred.

These ducks may be kept in mixed collections with dabbling ducks, including smaller species such as teal. They should be fed wheat in water, encouraging their natural diving behaviour. Pellets should also be fed. They may breed better if a group rather than single pair kept, as this allows their normal group displaying activity.

30x30x35cm nest box with 12.5cm entrance hole suggested, placed under cover at the edge of the pond.

Hardheads are sociable and easy to keep in mixed collections or in groups on large water areas with good marginal vegetation and shallow banks.

They breed fairly readily, using close ground cover (e.g. reeds, grass) or a ground level nest box or hollow log. Well-vegetated islands are prefered for nesting. Eggs are usually laid April to June. May be parent hatched and reared. May also be artificially incubated and hand reared, fostered under broody hens or fostered under Chestnut teal (Anas castanea).

They may hybridise with similar species, particularly New Zealand scaup (Aythya novaeseelandiae) should not be kept together.


The female Hardhead duck usually lays from 9-13 creamy white eggs and incubates them for 25 days.

Artificial incubating:

The ideal relative humidity for incubating most waterfowl eggs is 55% (ground nesters) and 40% (cavity nesters). The temperature is usually 37.4°C. Set ventilation as recommended by the incubator manufacturer. Eggs must be turned, either automatically or by hand, a minimum of 4 times a day. As the duckling develops there is a loss of water from the egg and the air sac gets bigger. In normal development of an egg with a 25 days incubation, the air sac occupies about a third of it three days earlier. Cleanliness is vital and ideally eggs should be moved to a separate hatcher at this point, where the humidity should be increased to 65% and even higher once they have pipped internally.

Bird banding:
Recommended closed leg band ring size for the Hardhead duck is 10 mm.
The leg band ring can only be applied on a young diving duck at around 12 days old.

It doesn't matter what leg that you band, but it's good to have a consistent system.
Suggested: Left leg = Female, Right leg = Male
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Floatable special rearing feed for all types of aquatic ornamental fowl - especially for the cultivation of trees as well as greening ducks.

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Maintenance food:
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Lundi Regular with a protein content of 20%, valuable Spirulina and high-quality by-products is optimally balanced in its composition maintenance food for water ornamental fowl of all kinds. Especially green teal and Whistling ducks that are not dependent on a very high protein content, are well supplied.

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Floating full food for all sea ducks, green ducks, eider ducks and geese, especially in the moulting and breeding phase ideally suited. Packed with wholesome raw materials, natural vitamins and trace elements, this performance food with a protein content of 30% forms the basis for lifelong vitality.

Photos of the Hardhead duck

Videos of the Hardhead duck