Torrent Duck (Merganetta armata)
Chilean name: Pato cortacorrientes
Male Torrent Duck, Torres del Paine, Chile, December 2005 - click for larger image Chile
November / December 2005

The Torrent Duck is distributed in the Andes of South America from Venezuela and Colombia south to southern Chile and Argentina and into Tierra del Fuego.

Female Torrent Duck, Torres del Paine, Chile, December 2005 - click for larger image It is found in fast-flowing mountain rivers and streams where it forages for aquatic insects, molluscs and possibly some fish by diving into the torrents and probing amongst the rocks. Even the chicks manage to survive and to thrive in these torrential waters. They fly low over the water, always following the river and nearly always fly upstream while making their way downstream while foraging.
Female Torrent Duck, Torres del Paine, Chile, December 2005 - click for larger image The male, seen in photo 1 is spectacularly marked with a red bill and a stiff tail. These birds are all of the nominate sub-species. Other sub-species show slightly different patterns and colours. The female is equally stunning but very different.
Torrent Duck family, Alto Bio-Bio, Chile, November 2005 - click for larger image We came across this family on 21st November. They were about 20 metres under a bridge in a narrow gorge of a tributary of the river Bio-Bio. We could see 2 chicks.
Torrent Duck family, Alto Bio-Bio, Chile, November 2005 - click for larger image

Because they were a few weeks old, we were surprised, on 10th December, to find a pair copulating on the Pingo River at Torres del Paine. Admittedly, this is a lot further south but maybe it was a second brood.

Male and Female Torrent Duck, Torres del Paine, Chile, December 2005 - click for larger image This is a sequence showing the mating of this pair of Torrent Duck. I have included the time when the shots were taken to show how quick the whole process is.

10:42:50 - I spot the pair I had seen 2 days earlier coming downstream in the torrent.

Male and Female Torrent Duck, Torres del Paine, Chile, December 2005 - click for larger image 10:43:36 - They drift into the side and the female bows her head giving the impression that she is looking at something under the water. She gives two or three short jumps in the air as if something had startled her.
Male and Female Torrent Duck, Torres del Paine, Chile, December 2005 - click for larger image 10:43:55 - The male jumps on top of the female and pushes her entirely under water.
Male and Female Torrent Duck, Torres del Paine, Chile, December 2005 - click for larger image 10:43:56
Male and Female Torrent Duck, Torres del Paine, Chile, December 2005 - click for larger image 10:44:00 - The female reappears with the male holding onto her nape with his beak.
Male and Female Torrent Duck, Torres del Paine, Chile, December 2005 - click for larger image 10:44:02
Male and Female Torrent Duck, Torres del Paine, Chile, December 2005 - click for larger image 10:44:14 - It's all over after less than 20 seconds and the pair retire to the rocky bank where they were still resting when I returned about 2 hours later.
Female Torrent Duck, Lauca NP, Chile, February 2007 - click for larger image This photo shows a female of the sub-species found in northern Chile M. a. berlepschi. The male has different facial markings but the female, seen here, is very sismilar to that of the nominate race found in central and southern Chile.
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