Ferruginous Duck

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Common Name: Ferruginous Duck
Scientific Name: Aythya nyroca

Size: 15-16.5 inches (38-42 cm); Wingspan: 24-27.5 inches (62-70 cm)

Habitat: Eurasia and Africa; it breeds principally in south-western Asia (east to China and south to Pakistan and India), central and eastern Europe, and North Africa. The wintering range overlaps with the breeding range and extends to the Middle East, north-east and West Africa (mainly Mali and Nigeria) and South-East Asia.

It shows a strong preference for fresh standing water and is very rarely found on flowing streams or rivers. It requires shallow water close to littoral vegetation for feeding and generally avoids large open areas. It is also found on shallow mudflats, possibly as a result of more accessible and abundant invertebrate food sources in this habitat.

Status: Near Threatened. Global population: 200,000-300,000 adult individuals. This species’ range has fluctuated considerably over the last 150 years as it has modified its distribution. However, most figures suggest widespread declines. Owing to significant local declines it is classified as “Vulnerable” in Europe. Evidence of declines in the larger Asian populations is sparse, and sometimes contradictory. The overall population is estimated to be declining at a moderate rate. The species is threatened by the degradation and destruction of well-vegetated shallow pools and other wetland habitats.

The population is estimated to number 2,400-2,600 in North Africa; 36,000-54,000 in eastern Europe; 25,000-100,000 in south-west Asia and north-east Africa (based on counts in the 1990s of 9,000 in Azerbaijan, 21,000 in Turkmenistan and 7,000 in Uzbekistan); and over 100,000 in the rest of Asia (based on tens of thousands breeding in Inner Mongolia, common occurrence on the Tibetan Plateau, and upwards of 90,000 being present in north-east Bangladesh in January 2002).

The species is fully protected in Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Moldova, Netherlands, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland, and is protected from hunting in Austria, Belgium, Greece, Poland, Turkey and Ukraine.

Diet: Animal matter taken includes worms, mollusks, snails, crustaceans, adult and larval insects (such as beetles, dragonflies, waterbugs, caddisflies), amphibians (frogs, tadpoles and spawn) and small fish (up to 3 cm).

Nesting: Sexes are similar; it is a dark chestnut colored duck. Both sexes uniform chestnut, slightly darker on back with white belly and under tail; male with distinctive pale iris. Juveniles are similar but the belly and under tail are grey-buff. In flight a broad white wingbar extends onto outer primaries.

In the spring females give a noisy err, err... call while in flight and males make a short chuk call. The major breeding habitats are shallow eutrophic freshwater pools and marshes with dense abundant submergent, floating, emergent and shoreline vegetation. Shallow banks with flooded vegetation and mudflats are particularly used for foraging during this season. The species shows a particular preference for breeding, molting and staging on large river deltas and extensively managed fish ponds in Eastern Europe.

The nest is a low platform of reeds and other vegetation placed on the ground or on an islet or hummock in thick vegetation close to water. Alternatively nests may be placed over water on floating mats of vegetation or in dense reedbeds along the shoreline.

Cool Facts: It breeds from April or May until late June in single pairs or loose groups. Adults undertake a wing molting period on the breeding grounds between July and August when large flocks of molting individuals may gather. Departure from the breeding grounds begins in mid- to late-August and peaks in October, with the species arriving in wintering areas from late October. The return migration to the breeding grounds begins in early March. Large gatherings of up to 100 individuals may occur prior to migration at the end of the post-breeding molt (July to August), and on migration the species often remains in small groups of 20-50 individuals. Outside of the breeding season the species may be observed solitarily, in pairs or small loose of 2-5 individuals, and larger gatherings of 1,000-2,000 individuals are also recorded from wintering grounds in Niger and Chad.

Found in Songbird Remix Waterfowl Volume II: Diving and Sea Ducks

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