Maccoa Duck (Oxyura maccoa)

Maccoa Duck

[order] ANSERIFORMES | [family] Anatidae | [latin] Oxyura maccoa | [authority] Eyton, 1838 | [UK] Maccoa Duck | [FR] Erismature maccoa | [DE] Afrika-Ruderente | [ES] Malvasia Maccoa | [NL] Afrikaanse Stekelstaart | [copyright picture] Callie de Wet


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Oxyura maccoa AF e, s


The stiff-tailed ducks are part of the Oxyurinae subfamily of ducks. All have, as their name implies, long stiff tail feathers, which are erected when the bird is at rest. All have relatively large swollen bills. These are freshwater diving ducks. Their legs are set far back, making them awkward on land, so they rarely leave the water. Their unusual displays involve drumming noises from inflatable throat-sacs, head throwing, and erecting short crests. Plumage sequences are complicated, and aging difficult. Plumage is vital for survival because of this animals tendency to spend time in the water. Without plumage this duck would die of hypothermia because of an inability to regulate its body temperature. A fossil species from the Late Pliocene or Early Pleistocene of Jalisco (Mexico) was described as Oxyura zapatanima. It resembled a small Ruddy Duck or, even more, Argentine Blue-bill. A larger Middle Pleistocene fossil form from the southwestern USA was described as Oxyura bessomi; it was probably quite close to the Ruddy Duck.

Physical charateristics

Male has a black head extending to the hindneck and throat. Bright blue bill. Chestnut body and short, stiff black tail often held erect. The female is largely brown with a pale throat and cheek stripe below the eye and faintly barred flanks.

Listen to the sound of Maccoa Duck

[audio: Duck.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 46 cm size max.: 51 cm
incubation min.: 25 days incubation max.: 27 days
fledging min.: 0 days fledging max.: 0 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 4  
      eggs max.: 8  


Africa : East, South. Oxyura maccoa has a large range, with the global population estimated to be 9,000-11,750 individuals and divided into a northern population occurring in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania, and a southern population found in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe


During the breeding season it inhabits small temporary and permanent inland freshwater lakes, preferring those that are shallow and nutrient-rich with extensive emergent vegetation such as reeds (Phragmites spp.) and cattails (Typha spp.) on which it relies for nesting. It prefers areas with a bottom of mud or silt and minimal amounts of floating vegetation, since this provides the best foraging conditions. It also breeds on man-made habitats, such as small farm wetlands in Namibia, and sewage-farm basins. Non-breeding Outside the breeding season it will wander over larger, deeper lakes and brackish lagoons. It is thought to find refuge on the larger lakes while moulting.


Prolonged breeding season (up to 10 months), but dependent on high water levels and peak of breeding September to December. Single pairs or loose groups are comon with several females nesting in the territory of one male. Nest is built in thick emergent vegetation (particularly cattails) over water, sometimes using old coot (Fulica spp.) and grebe nests; infrequently in dry scrub on land. Basin formed from leaves of cattails, sometimes with a partial covering dome of reed stems, and lined with down. Clutch size is 4-8 eggs which are incubated by the female for 25-27 days. The young are tended and defended by female for about five weeks. Ducklings remain together for three weeks or more after being deserted by their mother.

Feeding habits

This species feeds primarily on benthic invertebrates including fly larvae (Diptera), Tubifex worms, Daphnia eggs and small fresh-water molluscs. It will also feed on algae, the seeds of Persicaria and Polygonum, and the seeds and roots of other aquatic plants. It forages by diving and straining the benthic substrate with its bill.

Video Maccoa Duck


copyright: Josep del Hoyo


This species is listed as Near Threatened owing to its moderately small population size and ongoing declines resulting from a variety of threats. Further quantitative estimates of the rate of decline may qualify the species for Vulnerable.
Maccoa Duck status Near Threatened


This species is mainly sedentary but undertakes some small-scale post-breeding dispersive movements in search of suitable habitat during the dry season. It is not thought to cover distances greater than 500km

Distribution map

Maccoa Duck distribution range map

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