Knob-billed Duck: Sarkidiornis melanotos, The Unique Presence in Indian Bird Sanctuary

The world of avian species is a cascade of colors, patterns, sounds, and habits, each species presenting a unique and delightful spectacle. Among these myriad species, the Knob-billed Duck or Sarkidiornis melanotos stands out, making its presence felt in any bird sanctuary it calls home.In this article, you will learn about the Knob-billed Duck, a remarkable species that plays a significant role in our ecosystem. 

Also called the African Comb Duck, it is among the biggest duck species inhabiting the wetlands and waterways of subtropical and tropical regions in Sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, South Asia, and mainland Indochina. This large waterbird has a unique appearance with its white head freckled with dark spots, pure white neck and underparts, and glossy blue-black upperparts. The males of this species carry a distinct black knob on their bill, giving the species its name.

Serial NumberCharacteristicsDescription
1Common nameKnob-billed Duck
2Scientific nameSarkidiornis melanotos
3ColourWhite head with dark spots, white neck and underparts, glossy blue-black upperparts
4Average length56-76 cm
5Average wingspan116-145 cm
6Average weight1.03-2.9 kg
7Type of birdDuck
8Found in India in statesAssam, West Bengal, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Kerala
9HabitatWetlands, waterways in tropical/sub-tropical regions
10IUCN StatusLeast Concern

Features of the Bird


The Knob-billed Duck is easily recognized for its impressive size, measuring between 56 to 76 cm in length and having a wingspan of 116 to 145 cm. It is one of the largest species of duck.Their weights vary between 1.03 to 2.9 kg. The males are much larger than the females and carry a distinguishing feature, a large black knob on the bill, making them an enchanting sight in any bird sanctuary.


The coloring of the Knob-billed Duck is another distinctive feature that adds to its charm. Adults have a white head freckled with dark spots, a pure white neck and underparts, and glossy blue-black upperparts. The males, in addition to their black knob, showcase bluish and greenish iridescence especially prominent on the secondaries, an attribute that makes them a popular subject for bird photos and bird png creation.


The Knob-billed Duck is usually silent and is known to emit a low croak only when flushed. This subtlety adds a layer of mystery to the species and makes an encounter with them in a bird sanctuary even more special for the observant bird lover.

Habitat and Food of the Bird


The Knob-billed Duck is a common resident of tropical and subtropical wetlands and waterways. Its distribution spans across Sub-Saharan Africa, Madagascar, most of South Asia, and mainland Indochina. Birdwatchers can spot this bird in various states across India, such as Assam, West Bengal, Gujarat, Rajasthan, and Kerala. It’s a common sight in many bird sanctuaries in these regions

Food Sources

Knob-billed Ducks have a varied diet that primarily consists of plant matter. They are known to feed on seeds, aquatic vegetation, and small aquatic creatures. Their foraging habit, involving dabbling in shallow water and grazing on land, makes them an interesting subject for bird picture enthusiasts.


Like many waterfowl species, the Knob-billed Duck partakes in the phenomenon of bird migration, moving between different regions based on the availability of food and suitable breeding grounds. However, many populations are sedentary, staying in the same area throughout the year.

Breeding Grounds

Breeding typically takes place near water bodies, often in a well-hidden location to protect the eggs and ducklings from predators. The female Knob-billed Duck lays 7-15 eggs in a bird nest often made in a tree hole or on a platform of reeds and grass.

Nesting and Nurturing

The nesting habits of the Knob-billed Duck are intriguing. The nests are usually built in a tree hole or on a platform of reeds and grass close to water bodies. The bird house of the Knob-billed Duck is thus an active site during the breeding season.

The female lays a clutch of 7-15 eggs, which she incubates alone for about 30 days while the male stays nearby, guarding the nest. Post hatching, both parents participate in caring for the ducklings, often seen leading them to water bodies and teaching them to forage.


  1. Habitat Protection: The Knob-billed Duck, much like any other waterfowl species, relies heavily on wetlands and water bodies for survival. These habitats provide the necessary food resources and breeding grounds for the species. However, rapid urbanization, pollution, and climate change pose significant threats to these habitats. To ensure the survival of the Knob-billed Duck, conservation efforts should prioritize the protection and restoration of wetlands and other aquatic habitats.
  1. Public Awareness: Despite its impressive size and unique features, the Knob-billed Duck remains relatively unknown among the public. Greater awareness about this species, its ecological importance, and the threats it faces, could facilitate better conservation outcomes. Organizing bird-watching events, informative exhibitions at bird shops, and awareness campaigns on social media can greatly contribute to increasing public awareness about this species.
  1. Research and Monitoring:Even though the Knob-billed Duck is currently classified as a species of “Least Concern,” it is crucial to continue researching and monitoring to ensure its survival in the long run.Studying the species’ behavior, bird migration patterns, breeding habits, and response to environmental changes can provide valuable insights for its conservation. Also, regular population assessments can help detect any potential decline in the species early on, enabling timely conservation action.

IUCN Status and Conservation

  1. Conservation Status: The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed the Knob-billed Duck as a species of ‘Least Concern’. This status implies that the species is currently not facing immediate threats to its survival. However, the ever-looming risks of habitat loss, pollution, hunting, and climate change call for ongoing monitoring and conservation efforts.
  1. Conservation Efforts: While the Knob-billed Duck is not currently endangered, the preservation of its habitats, particularly wetlands, is crucial for its survival. Efforts are being made across its range to protect and restore these habitats. Birdlife sanctuary initiatives play a key role in these efforts, offering protected spaces for the species to thrive.
  1. Role of the Public: Public awareness and action are fundamental to the conservation of any species. Whether you’re a bird lover, a casual bird watcher, or simply a nature enthusiast looking for a bird shop near me, everyone can contribute to the conservation of the Knob-billed Duck. By visiting bird sanctuaries, adopting responsible practices, and spreading awareness, we can help ensure the survival of this fascinating species.

In conclusion, the Knob-billed Duck, with its majestic size, distinctive features, and unique habits, is a noteworthy species of the avian world. It is a testament to the beauty and diversity of our planet’s birdlife. As we admire the splendor of this species, let’s remember our responsibility to protect and conserve it for the generations to come. Whether it’s capturing the perfect bird image name, watching the bird take flight, or simply appreciating the natural beauty around us, let’s make every moment count in the preservation of these wonderful creatures.

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