Habitat and Ecology
Habitat and Ecology
Behaviour This species is subject to upredictable local nomadic movements4 (usually of less than 500 km) in relation to variations in water and food availability3. Breeding commences at the start of the local rainy season1 with the species nesting individually6, 7 or in loose colonies or small groups1. Adults undergo a post-breeding flightless moult period lasting for 18-25 days during which they are particularly vulnerable and seek the cover of densely vegetated wetlands2. When not breeding the species is gregarious and may forage in flocks of up to several thousands of individuals2. The species mainly forages at night1 (although it may also feed diurnally during the winter)3. Habitat The species inhabits a wide variety of freshwater wetlands1 including lakes, swamps2, marshes, large rivers, river deltas, flood-plains3, reservoirs2, 3, sewage farms (Africa)4 and estuaries2, and is commonly encountered feeding in rice fields2. It shows a preference for wetlands in open country1 (although it is likely to inhabit fresh or brackish waters in more forested areas in South America)4 with mud or sandbars for roosting and rich shoreline4, emergent and surface vegetation5. Adults require densely vegetated permanent wetlands for cover during their flightless post-breeding moult period2, 7, although breeding birds prefer more ephemeral wetlands7. Diet Its diet consists of grasses (e.g. Echinochloa spp.), aquatic seeds e.g. of water-lilies Nyphaea and Nymphoides spp., rice1, pondweeds (e.g. Potamogeton spp.)7 and tubers (especially in the dry season)2, as well as aquatic invertebrates such as molluscs, crustaceans and insects1, the consumption of which is highest during the rains2. Breeding site The nest is a depression4 or low construction of vegetation2 placed over or at varying distances from water, usually in stands of dense vegetation (e.g. long grass, sedge or rice)2 on dry ground or in reedbeds1, 4, occasionally also in open crevices in trees (South America)2, 3. The species may nest in solitary pairs6, 7 with nests placed more then 75 m apart (Africa)5, 7, although it may also nest in loose colonies or small groups1.
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