The African finfoot is an underwater specialist with a long neck, a striking sharp beak, and bright red, lobed feet. The plumage varies by race, generally pale underneath and darker on top. The males are usually darker than the females. It superficially resembles South America's torrent duck. Finfoots are usually seen singly or in pairs. They are very secretive. Even experienced ornithologists see them very rarely, making them a prized sighting for birders and twitchers. Because they are so elusive, it is not known if they spend most of their time in the water, where they are almost always seen, or on land.

Habitat and Distribution

The African finfoot can be found in a range of habitats across Africa, where there are rivers, streams and lakes with good cover on the banks. This range includes forest, wooded savannah, flooded forest, and even mangrove swamps.


The finfoot feeds on aquatic invertebrates, including both adults and larval mayflies, dragonflies, crustaceans, also snails, fish and amphibians. They are thought to be highly opportunistic and take some of their prey directly off the waters surface. They are adept out of water and will forage on the banks as well, unlike the grebes, which they resemble but are not related to.


Their time of breeding varies by area, usually coinciding with the rainy season. They build a nest, nothing more than a mess of twigs and reeds, on a fallen tree above the water. Two eggs are laid and incubated solely by the female. The chicks leave the nest a few days after hatching.