Tufted Duck

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Common Name: Tufted Duck
Scientific Name: Aythya fuligula

Size: 16-18 inches (40.6-45.7 cm); Wingspan: 33-35 inches (83.8-88.9 cm)

Habitat: Worldwide; breeds widely throughout temperate and northern Eurasia. It occasionally can be found as a winter visitor along both coasts of the United States and Canada. These ducks are migratory in most of their range, and winter in the milder south and west of Europe, southern Asia and all year in most of the United Kingdom.

During breeding Season, it is found in lowland regions with open water (showing a preference for eutrophic waters 3-5 m deep and avoiding lakes deeper than 15 m), that have islands for breeding and abundant marginal and emergent vegetation. It is common on large, freshwater lakes, ponds, reservoirs, gravel-pits and quiet stretches of wide slow-flowing rivers during breeding season. During the winter the species frequents large freshwater lakes, reservoirs and sheltered coastal locations such as brackish lagoons, brackish inland seas (e.g. Caspian Sea), tidal bays and estuaries, although it avoids strong wave action and very exposed maritime conditions unless all inland freshwaters become frozen.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 2,600,000-2,900,000 adult individuals. The overall population trend is stable, although some populations have unknown trends. The species is threatened by habitat degradation due to oil pollution, drainage, peat-extraction and changing land management practices (e.g. decreased grazing and mowing in meadows leading to scrub over-growth and agricultural intensification) in breeding areas. It also suffers decreased reproductive success as a result of disturbance from increased recreational use of inland water bodies, machinery noise from urban development, hunting and predation by American mink (Neovison vison) on islands. The species is susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the virus. The Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies to this species.

Diet: Omnivorous. A major part of its diet consisting of mollusks (especially Mytillus and Cardium spp.), gastropods and zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorph), crustaceans and aquatic insects, as well as grain and the seeds and vegetative parts of aquatic plants.

They dive to feed on the roots, seeds and buds of aquatic plants; clams; snails; aquatic insects and sometimes amphibians and small fish. They also skim flies and duckweed on the water's surface.

Nesting: The adult male is all black except for white flanks and a blue-grey bill. It has an obvious head tuft that gives the species its name. The female tufted duck is similar in appearance to female scaup, but is black-brown with a smaller patch of white at the base of the bill. At the back of the head, there is a small protuberance of feathers, which is much smaller than the male's.

The females' call is a harsh, growling "karr", mostly given in flight. The males are mostly silent but they make whistles during courtship based on a simple "wit-oo".

In central and north-west Europe this species is mainly sedentary although other populations are chiefly migratory. Migratory populations arrive on their breeding grounds from late-April where they breed in single pairs or loose groups with hundreds often nesting at the same site-- although not colonially. Once incubation has commenced, the males gather in flocks to molt between late-June and early-September when they become flightless for 3-4 weeks with females molting their flight feather 1-2 months later. The autumn migration begins in September, with a segregation of the sexes occurring in autumn and winter due to the difference in the timing of the molt. The return spring migration begins in late-February. During the winter the species is highly gregarious and may occur in flocks of several thousand individuals

The nest is constructed of vegetation and is placed in water on floating mats or islets, or on the ground on islands in rush or grass tussocks, under bushes or in the open amidst marsh nesting gull or tern colonies (for protection against predators). Nests are usually placed within 20 m of water although on islands they may be placed up to 150 m away. Although the species is not colonial hundreds may nest on the same site with neighboring nests spaced 7-11 m apart (within gull or tern colonies nests are spaced 2-3 m apart). They lay an average of 9 eggs.

Cool Facts: The male tufted ducks closely resemble their counterparts, ring-necked ducks. The principle difference is the tuft of feathers that fall behind the head.

The Tufted duck is also known by a suite of other names, such as the tufted pochard, tufted diver, tufted scaup, the crested duck or crested diver, the black and white diver, white-sided diver or magpie diver, the black duck or black wigeon, or as the least wigeon. It also has a few names that are a bit more colorful, such as the black poker, pied duker, blue-billed curre, or the lapmark duck.

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

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