White-eyed ducks spotted

MONIKER: Hardhead is now the official name of the white-eyed duck.

MONIKER: Hardhead is now the official name of the white-eyed duck.

At Lake Wendouree, we observed a dark-coloured duck with a white eye and a pale blue tip to its bill. Is this a blue-billed duck?

G. & E.G., Miners Rest

The white eye indicates a hardhead, also known as the white-eyed duck. A blue-billed duck has a dark eye, and the male’s bill is wholly sky blue. Only the male hardhead has the white eye; the female’s eye is dark, and she lacks the pale blue tip to the bill. The name “hardhead” is now the official common name for this duck, although it was long known as the white-eyed duck. However, there is also a white-eyed duck in Europe. Hardhead as a name has been in use for at least 120 years. The duck’s skull is not noticeably thick, so perhaps the name was given by taxidermists, who found the back of the head difficult to work with.

  • Questions and photos are welcome. Send to Roger Thomas at The Courier, PO Box 21, Ballarat, 3353, or email to rthomas@vic.australis.com.au