A strange, prehistoric looking duck. It has blackish brown plumage, stiff tail feathers and the males have a distinctive leathery looking flap under their bills.
It floats very low in the water or dozes on the surface with tail feathers spread fanlike. They feed by diving and can stay submerged for up to a minute searching for aquatic insects, snails and crustaceans.
During the breeding season the male exudes a strong musk like odour from his preen gland. The male courtship display is remarkable, blowing out cheeks and neck and inflating their chin bag. They spread their tail feathers over their backs and flick up water with their feet. Their call is a most unduck-like loud “K-pfonk” grunt and a piercing, far reaching whistle.
Nesting occurs from late winter to early spring in secluded areas at the water’s edge. Mature birds if feeling threatened will escape detection by sinking under the water leaving only eyes and nostrils exposed.