British Waterfowl Association

White-winged Duck

White-winged Duck swimming
White-winged Duck — Ian Gereg
White-winged Duck — Phoebe Vaughan
White-winged Ducklings — Phoebe Vaughan

Asarcornis scutulata

Striking and substantial, the White-winged Duck is a tropical forest species from South East Asia. Historically, it was widely distributed. Loss and disturbance of its habitats has resulted in small and fragmented populations which are susceptible to hunting: it is listed as Endangered. White-winged Ducks are also among the least known waterfowl, as in the wild they are shy, wary and largely nocturnal.

portrait of a White-weinged Duck
White-winged Duck — Phoebe Vaughan

In appearance it bears a strong resemblance to the Muscovy Duck, and it was previously placed in the same genus, Cairina. However, DNA evidence suggests that it is more closely related to the diving ducks, so it is now in a genus of its own, Asarcornis. The sexes are similar, having freckled white heads and necks with dark bodies, contrasting with striking white forewings. Females are smaller, with heavier freckling on their heads.

White-winged duckling
White-winged duckling — Jan Harteman

The White-winged Duck has always been rare in collections, but they have been bred regularly at WWT Slimbridge since the early 1970s. Today a number of collections have pairs, while a studbook is maintained to coordinate breeding. Perhaps the biggest challenge with the captive flock is inbreeding, as they are descended from just seven birds. They can be aggressive in captivity.