Netta erythrophthalma (Southern pochard) 

Bruineend [Afrikaans]; Letata (generic term for duck) [South Sotho]; Dada, Sekwe (both are generic names for duck or goose) [Shona]; Xinyankakeni [Tsonga]; Sehudi (generic term for duck) [Tswana]; Zuidelijke tafeleend, bruine krooneend [Dutch]; Nette brune [French]; Rotaugenente [German]; Zarro-africano [Portuguese]

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Netta erythrophthalma (Southern pochard)  Netta erythrophthalma (Southern pochard) 

Southern pochard male, Strandfontein Sewerage Works, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]

Southern pochard female, Strandfontein Sewerage Works, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]

The Southern pochard is common, and has a population scattered across southern Africa. It lives in wetlands, where it feeds mainly on the seeds and leaves of aquatic plants. It is a monogamous, solitary nester, the female building its nest out of leaves and stems, placing it on embankments surrounded by dense vegetation. It lays 4-16 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female, for 20-28 days. The chicks, once hatched, are immediately led by their mother to water, where they are capable of diving and swimming. The brood fledge at 49-65 days old.


Heaviest adult female 1018 g
Heaviest adult male 1010 g
Lightest adult female 484 g
Lightest adult male 592 g
Longest living 6 years 8 months
Longest distance travelled > 3000 km

Distribution and habitat

Found in North and South America, as well as in Africa south of the Sahara. (Eritrea and Angola through to southern Africa). In southern Africa it can be found where there are wetlands with deep, clear water and emergent vegetation.

Distribution of Southern pochard in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project ( Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  


It is quite mobile, as birds ringed in the North-West Province have been found in northern Namibia, and even Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya, more than 3000 km away!

Predators and parasites

  • Lice
    • Anaticola crassicornis
    • Anatoecus icterodes
    • Holomenopon leucoxanthum
    • Trinoton querquedulae
  • Theromyzon cooperi (African duck leech)
  • On one pan, 1.8% infected with Clostridium botulinum (Botulism)


It feeds mainly on plant products, with very small amounts of invertebrates making up the rest of its diet. It usually forages by diving, sometimes travelling 18 m. It also dabbles and, uncommonly, forages on waterside vegetation.

  • Plants
    • Nymphaea (water-lilies) seeds, rhizomes and corms.
      • Nymphaea nouchali (Blue water-lily)
      • other species
    • Nymphoides indica (Small yellow water lily) seeds, rhizomes and corms.
    • Typha domingensis (Bulrush) seeds
    • Scirpus littoralis (Steekbiesie) seeds
    • Papsalidium geminatum (Swamp grass) seeds
    • Aeschynomene pfundii (Knuckle-bean) seeds
    • Oryza sativa (Wild rice) seeds
    • Dicotyledons seeds
    • Echninochloa stagnina (Long-awned water grass) leaves and fruits

  • Invertebrates

    • insects

    • Gastropods

    • Bulinus corneus (Fluke snails)


  • Monogamous solitary nester, often with nests only a few metres apart. Courtship is elaborate, involving unique calls, preening, and head bobbing.
  • The female builds the nest, using materials from nearby aquatic plants. The nest is a broad bowl, 30-40 cm wide and about 8 cm deep, built with leaves and stems of aquatic plants, sometimes lined with down feathers. It is usually placed in thick vegetation (e.g. reeds or sedges) on the water's edge or up to 20 m away. Rarely, it uses old nests of Fulica cristata (Red-knobbed coot)
  • Laying dates are as follows:
  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Namibia   x x x                
Botswana x x x x           x x  
Zimbabwe x x x x x x x   x     x
North-eastern South Africa x x x x x   x         x
Free State Province x x x   x x            
KwaZulu-Natal x x   x     x x       x
Eastern Cape x x x           x x x x
Western Cape x x x     x x x x x x x
Northern Cape x x x x x     x x x x  
  • It lays 4-15 eggs, at 1 day intervals, which are incubated by the female for 20-28 days.

  • The chicks, once hatched, are immediately led by their mother to the water, as they know how to dive and swim by instinct, The chicks fledge at 49-65 days old.

  • The chicks feed for themselves, with the female disturbing floating vegetation by sweeping its bill while the chicks grab bits of food. The chicks eat about 20% insects and 80% plant matter. The following food items have been recorded in the chicks diet:

Netta erythrophthalma (Southern pochard)

Southern pochard with chicks, Nylsvley, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ]


  • The Southern Pochard is not threatened, in fact it has benefited greatly from human development.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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