Historical information

Interestingly, the name "Hardhead" does not refer to the density of this species skull. Instead, it refers to the difficulty encountered by early taxidermies in styling the bird's head. This particular breed of Duck is smaller than average and are often found in the coastal regions of Australia. They are also known to reside in New Guinea, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. This species was formerly known as the 'White-eyed Duck"; however, since the female Hardhead have dark eyes, this species was renamed the "Hardhead" Duck.

This specimen is part of a collection of almost 200 animal specimens that were originally acquired as skins from various institutions across Australia, including the Australian Museum in Sydney and the National Museum of Victoria (known as Museums Victoria since 1983), as well as individuals such as amateur anthropologist Reynell Eveleigh Johns between 1860-1880. These skins were then mounted by members of the Burke Museum Committee and put-on display in the formal space of the Museum’s original exhibition hall where they continue to be on display. This display of taxidermy mounts initially served to instruct visitors to the Burke Museum of the natural world around them, today it serves as an insight into the collecting habits of the 19th century.


This specimen is part of a significant and rare taxidermy mount collection in the Burke Museum. This collection is scientifically and culturally important for reminding us of how science continues to shape our understanding of the modern world. They demonstrate a capacity to hold evidence of how Australia’s fauna history existed in the past and are potentially important for future environmental research.

This collection continues to be on display in the Museum and has become a key part to interpreting the collecting habits of the 19th century.

Physical description

This Hardhead specimen is a stocky medium-sized duck with chocolate brown colouring. The bird has paler white/ cream coloured plumage on the stomach and neck. The bill is a grey black colour and the eyes are made of a grey glass with a black pupil. The lighter brown colour of this specimen's head could refer to its identification as female or could be due to the taxidermy process or the impact of age on the colouring of the specimen. Female Hardheads have brown eyes, while the male have strikingly pale white/grey eyes. The bird has large webbed feet which are attached to the wooden platform it stands upon. The platform is inscribed on the left with the number 138.

Inscriptions & markings

7a. /
White-eyed Duck /
See Catalogue, Page 39. /

138 on the wooden platform