British Waterfowl Association

White-backed Duck

Pair of White-backed Ducks swimming with nice reflections of reeds
White-backed Ducks - Barry Nicolle

The reason for the name White-backed Duck is obvious when they fly. But they don’t do that very often, or very far.

White-backed duck portrait
White-backed Duck - Morag Jones

Thalassornis leuconotus 

These interesting little ducks are widespread throughout much of tropical Africa; East Senegal to Chad, Ethiopia to South Africa. they can be found on a variety of quiet freshwater lakes, pools, lagoons, marshes and swamps. White-backed Ducks will also take to man-made waters where food is abundant.

Mostly vegetarian as adults, they favour waterlilies and other aquatic plant seeds and leaves, feeding principally at night.

Though mostly seen on water, they have a curious habit of loafing on the bank with their feet up, rather than tucking a beak under a wing. Their legs are long, but set well back on the body so they are better adapted for swimming than for a life on land. If spooked, they can travel a surprising distance underwater.

2 White-backed Ducks on the bank with their feet up
White-backed Ducks loafing - Billy Sumner

Like the rest of the Dendrocygninae, they form strong pair bonds. Both sexes incubate and care for progeny. Their eggs, 6 or so to a clutch, are a rich brown, possibly as a defence against brood parasitism by the Maccoa Duck Oxyura maccoa, which shares its range. Incubation is normally 28 days.

Though easy to maintain, White-backed Ducks are not at all easy to raise. Physical sexing is very difficult so DNA sexing is advised.