Red-crested Pochard

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Common Name: Red-crested Pochard
Scientific Name: Netta rufina

Size: 20.8-22.4 inches (53-57 cm); Wingspan: 33.4-35.4 inches (85-90 cm)

Habitat: Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Found in Mediterranean Europe and Africa, as well as Central Asia and wintering in the Indian Subcontinent. It is somewhat migratory and northern birds will winter further south into North Africa.

The species inhabits inland, deep fresh or brackish, reed-fringed lakes, rivers, saline and alkaline lagoons in open country. They also occur less often on estuaries, river deltas and other sheltered, coastal habitats during migration.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: Unknown amount of adult individuals. The overall population trend is uncertain, as some populations are decreasing, while others are increasing, stable, or have unknown trends.

The two main threats to this species are habitat degradation through land-use changes, and Portugal and Spain not having any official hunting bag monitoring. The species also suffers poisoning from lead shot ingestion and is occasionally drowned in freshwater fishing nets in China. Deterioration in the water quality of wetlands can reduce the abundance of stonewort (Nitellopsis obtuse) which is an important part of the species’ diet and it is susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the virus. Protected under the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA).

Diet: Roots, seeds and vegetative parts of aquatic plants ((Hippurus spp.), hornworts (Ceratophyllum spp.), pondweeds (Potamogeton spp.), milfoil (Myriophyllum spp.) and especially, stonewort (Nitellopsis obtuse). They feed mainly by diving or dabbling, and typically upend for food more than most diving ducks. It feeds diurnally, being most active during the early morning.

Nesting: The adult drake is unmistakable. It has a rounded orange head, red bill and black breast. The flanks are white, the back brown, and the tail black. The female is mainly a pale brown, with a darker back and crown and a whitish face. Eclipse males are like females but with red bills.

The species is fully migratory and breeds from mid-April to early-June in single pairs or loose groups. Males and non-breeders molt and become flightless for four weeks between June and August (females molting one month later) prior to which they may make extensive molt migrations which take them considerable distances from the breeding waters. Once this post-breeding molt is complete the species departs for its winter quarters, arriving there from October onwards.

The nest is constructed of roots, twigs and leaves near water on the ground in dense vegetation or on floating mats of vegetation amidst reed beds. The female lays 8-12 pale green eggs.

Cool Facts: The species is highly gregarious for most of the year and although it is more commonly found in small groups, it often forms large concentrations of several hundred individuals in molting and wintering areas.

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

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