Disputed Habitat: Pacific Black Duck vs Australian Wood Duck

Part of the disputed habitat – the shallow part of the dam, with lots of reeds to hide in.


This morning I awoke to a wonderful surprise, a Pacific Black Duck with approximately eight ducklings (it was difficult to count them from a distance).  I’d not noticed a nest, so I don’t know if they were breeding on our property or a neighboring one.  With such young fluffy ducklings, they had obviously walked from somewhere close by.

In previous years we have had Australian Wood Ducks with at least three separate groups of ducklings.  I was excited and looking forward to observing the different behaviour between the two species.   Unlike the Australian Wood Ducks, which parent in pairs, the Pacific Black Duck seemed to be alone with her brood.

She took the ducklings into the shallow water, close to the reeds and they swam out from the shore.  Within ten minutes, four Australian Wood Ducks arrived – two males and two females.  Until now, I’ve always thought of Australian Wood Ducks as gentle creatures. They are usually happy to share the dam with Pacific Black Duck, Heron, Cormorants and other water birds which drop by. Today, they were not prepared to share the dam with the Pacific Black Ducks.  The four Australian Wood Ducks surrounded the Pacific Black Duck family, and aggressively forced them out of the water.  Once on land, the female Pacific Black Duck ran at each of the aggressors in turn,  protecting her ducklings.  Giving up, she led them over the dam wall and into the bush.Within ten minutes of the new family vanishing, the Australian Wood Ducks left too.  I hope they were not pursuing the poor “intruders” to their next destination.  Surrounding properties also have dams, so hopefully the ducklings were able to find a safe place to feed.

Just in case the Pacific Black Duck returns tomorrow morning to try her luck again, I will be up early and monitoring the dam.

On most occasions I am very happy with the camera lenses I have, but today how I wished for a powerful telephoto lens.  Although I took quite a few photographs, the action simply took place too far away.  These are the four ‘best’ shots.


The Pacific Black Duck family about to enter the water.
A brief moment of peace, the Pacific Black Duck family swimming.
The Australian Wood Ducks were very territorial, forcing the Pacific Black Ducks away from the dam.
The victorious Australian Wood Ducks swim back to the near side of the dam after driving the Pacific Black Ducks away.

For reference, last year, the Australian Wood Duck brought their new brood of ducklings down to the dam on 14 September. Taking this into account, I suppose they were being territorial today  because they will be bringing their own family to the dam in a week or two.

Australian Wood Duck nest in tree hollows, well off the ground.  When the ducklings hatch, the parent jumps to the ground  and the ducklings follow.  From that point on, they do not return to the nest.   While I’ve seen a couple of ducks in trees over the past month or two, I have not been able to identify any potential nesting hollows, so I’m not sure if the two pairs of Australian Wood Duck are nesting close by or not. From their behaviour today, my guess is that they do have a nest close to the dam.



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