Bird Species of the World's Boreal Forests


Oxyura leucocephala
White-headed Duck


Distinguishing Features - White-headed ducks are easily distinguished from other ducks. The drake has a large white head, black neck and bluish large bill. The body is light brown and its spiked stiff tail is often erected, giving it a distinct silhouette. Males and females are about the same size, up to 43 - 48 cm; females have a darker head, light-colored cheeks crossed by a dark line; body is chestnut to reddish.

White-headed Duck Habitat

Endangered. White-headed Duck is one of the rarest bird species in the world, with a world population of no more than 15,000 birds. Its present distribution is highly scattered, having two main subpopulations, one in western and the other in eastern Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. The western population is resident, breeding mainly in Spain but also in Algeria and Tunisia. The eastern population is larger and migratory. White-headed Ducks breed mainly in Turkey, while fewer breed in the southern boreal regions of Russia. White-headed Ducks prefer large brackish or saline lakes.


Primarily aquatic vegetation and invertebrates.


The body construction of the White-headed Duck makes it more water-dependant than other duck species. It is, also, one of the few water birds that moult twice a year -during breeding season and winter. Being unable to fly during these periods, they are highly vulnerable to predation. The dependency of White-headed Ducks on irregularly formed seasonal marshes and small shallow wetland is the greatest threat for their survival as those areas are the most vulnerable to drainage and conversion to agricultural land or pastures.

Since 1990, a promising increase has been noticed in the number of birds in their range and beyond. This is mainly due to financing from wildlife protection agencies.

Return to Top of Page

Home | Forest Capital of Canada | About Our Website |
Ontario's North (West) Forest | Boreal Forests of the World | North (West) Forest Industry |
World Links and Resources | "Forest Finder" Search Engine | Educational Resources |
What's Happening | Contacts | Site Map |