Torrent Duck - Strongman of the Tropical Rainforest

Torrent Duck (Merganetta armata)
Torrent Duck (Merganetta armata) | Source

Ducks can be seen throughout the world but none can match the aquatic abilities of the Torrent Duck, found along the swift, turbulent streams of the Andean tropical rainforest. Its swimming prowess allows it to forage for food deep in the tempestuous waters and rapids created by glacier runoff. It is at home in a violent environment, daring to live where other inhabitants fear to enter.

The Torrent Duck of Ecuador's Tropical Rainforest

The Torrent Duck is fairly common along the Andean slopes from western Venezuela to Tierra del Fuego in southern Chile. Within Ecuador it can be found in the tropical rainforest along swift-flowing rivers and streams on both slopes. Also, where conditions are amicable, this spectacular bird can be observed in the Inter-Andean valleys. Preferring altitudes above 1,500 meters (5,000 ft) it can be readily detected from 700 – 3,200 m (2,300 – 10,500 ft). Although there is little reason it should not be found along the entire slope of the west there are few reports of it south of Cotopaxi.


There is a significant sexual dimorphism that is obvious with the Torrent Duck, almost to the point of appearing as separate species. Both sexes exhibit the graceful slender body, long stiff tail and protruding spur from the bend of the wing. The irises of their eyes are brown and the narrow bill and legs are an obvious bright coral red in hue. From here the male and female differ greatly.

Female Torrent Duck in Rapids
Female Torrent Duck in Rapids | Source

The male is handsomely colored with a predominantly white head sporting a black crown patch that extends down the hind neck. There is also a prominent black streak that starts just in front of the eye and stretches down the sides of the neck. The upper parts are grayish to brown with blackish and buff streaking. The hindquarters are densely vermiculated white and gray while the chest and lower parts are white and gray streaked.

In contrast, the female of the species displays a bluish gray coloration from mid-eye up that extends down the back, including wing-covers. This is streaked with black. The rump is similar to the male. Below the mid-eye and throughout the lower parts the female is a bright orange-cinnamon in hue. 


This sleek little bird is celebrated for its swimming prowess, being able to navigate torrential waters of unimaginable proportion. Diving deep in the abysses in search of aquatic invertebrates, it will probe its way along the streambeds devouring such morsels as small trout, insect larvae and mollusks.

The Torrent Duck is a sedentary creature, ordinarily occurring in pairs. The female will lay its eggs in streamside caves and protected areas of the tropical rainforest. If surprised, these birds may take flight but will remain along the riverbed, flying low to the water. They will work their way upstream, foraging along the way. Although the Torrent Duck is quite numerous in Ecuador, pollution has diminished their numbers.


Although the Torrent Duck is quite common locally, it is not always easy to spot. When observed it is generally sitting on rocks in the center of swift-flowing rivers or streams but with a little diligence and patience, encountering this lovely creature can be a rewarding experience. Locations where the Torrent Duck can be seen are: Antisana Reserve, Copa Linga Lodge, Guango Lodge & Reserve, Guacamayos Ridge, Mindo Valley, Podocarpus-Bombuscaro & Vicinity, San Isidro Reserve, Tinalandia, Tapichalaca Reserve, and Tandayapa Valley.

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Comments 10 comments

Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 5 years ago from Fife, Scotland

What a beautiful bird this is - male and female - I loved reading this hub about them.

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thank you Seeker. They are beautiful birds and fascinating to watch.

beth cassandra 5 years ago

I like anything to do with the rain forest's and the Andes in particular and I like Peru and the people I have a family there now beth cassandra

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Appreciate the comments. The rainforest is beautiful. It has been a long time since I was to Peru. A wonderful place.

Brooke.Crawford profile image

Brooke.Crawford 5 years ago from Missouri

this is a great hub, you obviously have a great empathy for the rainforest and the animals within... thanks for sharing some of your knowledge!

cd tabor profile image

cd tabor 5 years ago

great job! you did it again...

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thank you for your comments Brooke. I seem to be spending more time in the rainforest every week. There is so much to discover. Every day is new.

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thanks Td Tabor. It so easy to write about something you love.

crystolite profile image

crystolite 5 years ago from Houston TX

nice hub,thanks for sharing.

ColibriPhoto profile image

ColibriPhoto 5 years ago from Quito, Ecuador Author

Thank you crystolite. Appreciate the comments.

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