Harteman Wildfowl, presented by Jan Harteman

African Comb duck / Knob-billed duck

Sarkidiornis melanotos

Afrikaanse Knobbelpronkeend / Höckerglanzente / Sarcidiorne

 

Sarkidiornis melanotos and Sarkidiornis sylvicola (del Hoyo and Collar 2014) were previously lumped as S. melanotos following Sibley and Monroe (1990, 1993).

 

This species is named for the unusual knob at the base of the male's bill. The two species are seperated by the Atlantic Ocean. The African Comb Duck is found throughout much of Africa, south of the Sahara and Madagascar. This species can also be found on the Indian subcontinent, Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand. The South American Comb Duck (Sarkidiornis sylvicola), is native to the tropical regions of South America.
Both species are similar in appearance. The African is larger than the American, and has gray sides and flanks. The American species has black flanks, but both share the spotted head. The hen of this species is much smaller than the male, and does not have the comb on the bill or black band of the breast.
Comb Ducks are a cavity nester and need a nest box to nest. Boxes can be raised or placed on the ground with the entrance hole at least 5 inches in diameter. There are exceptions as they will sometimes build a ground nest among thick vegetation. The hen incubates her clutch of 6 to 8 eggs for about 30 days. Unlike other species, the hen does not line her nest with down.

 

This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern (IUCN, 2014). The global population size is unknown given recent taxonomic splits.

 

The species is threatened by hunting (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (e.g. in Madagascar [Kear 2005a]), habitat destruction (Kear 2005a) (e.g. from deforestation [del Hoyo et al. 1992]), and indiscriminate use of poison in rice-fields (del Hoyo et al. 1992). The species has declined in the Senegal Delta following the damming of the Senegal River (which has resulted in habitat degradation and loss from vegetation overgrowth, desertification processes and land conversion to agriculture [Triplett and Yesou 2000]). This species is also susceptible to avian influenza, so is potentially threatened by future outbreaks of the virus (Gaidet et al. 2007).

 

Aviculture (ex-situ)

This species is not often seen in private collections. They are tropical and require heat during the cold Winter months. Comb Ducks are generally peaceful and do well in a mixed aviary, but males should be watched as they can be somewhat aggressive during the breeding season.

 

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 Above: adult male Sarkidiornis melanotos

 

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Above: juvenile male Sarkidiornis melanotos

 

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Above: Female Sarkidiornis melanotos

 

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Above: adult male Sarkidiornis melanotos

 

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Above: adult pair Sarkidiornis melanotos

 

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Above: adult male Sarkidiornis melanotos

 

Above: video clip of captive African comb ducks, Sarkidiornis melanotos

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