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The Breeding Biology of Captive Black-Headed Ducks and the Behavior of Their Young

Eileen C. Rees and Nigella Hillgarth
The Condor
Vol. 86, No. 3 (Aug., 1984), pp. 242-250
DOI: 10.2307/1366991
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1366991
Page Count: 9
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The Breeding Biology of Captive Black-Headed Ducks and the Behavior of Their Young
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Abstract

The behavior patterns of captive Black-headed Ducks (Heteronetta atricapilla) at the Wildfowl Trust, Slimbridge, Gloucester, were studied for three consecutive breeding seasons to investigate the breeding biology of this parasitic species. The birds fed mostly in the early morning and swam most actively in the evening, while they mainly rested on land during midday. In the evening, both males and females patrolled or skulked near nest sites of other birds, apparently searching for a suitable host to parasitize. The existence of pair-bonds during the breeding season was fully established; copulation and egg-laying were observed. Two Black-headed Duck eggs were returned to the nest of a Rosy-billed Pochard (Netta peposaca) to determine the post-hatching behavior of the young and the role of the host bird. One Black-headed duckling hatched before any of the host's own clutch and left the nest on its own one day after hatching. The second duckling, which hatched with the young pochards, accompanied the family to water and returned to the female for warmth and protection (at increasingly infrequent intervals) for two days. These findings emphasize the uniqueness of the species and reinforce the case for placing Heteronetta in a tribe of its own.

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