Harteman Wildfowl, presented by Jan Harteman

Meller's duck

Anas melleri

Meller's eend / Madagaskar ente / Canard de Meller

 

The Meller's duck is a species of the dabbling duck genus Anas. It is endemic to eastern Madagascar. Although a population was established on Mauritius in the mid-18th century, this is on the verge of extinction due to habitat loss and competition by feraldomestic ducks.

 

Meller's duck breeds apparently during most of the year except May–June on Madagascar, dependent on local conditions; the Mauritian population has been recorded to breed in October and November. Unlike most of their closer relatives - with the exception of the African black duck - they are fiercely territorial during the breeding season; furthermore, pairs remain mated until the young are independent.

 

This species is listed as Endangered because it is believed to have a very small, although widely dispersed, population, all in one subpopulation, which is undergoing a continuing decline owing to intensive hunting, habitat loss and degradation, and disturbance.

 

Anas melleri is endemic to Madagascar, where it is found on the eastern and northern high plateau, in eastern drainage patterns (H.G. Young in litt. 2007). There are populations on isolated massifs on the western edges of the plateau (H.G. Young in litt.2007). Records from the west (B. Hughes in litt. 1998; Stattersfield et al. 1998) below the plateau (H.G. Young in litt. 2007), probably refer to vagrant or wandering birds (ZICOMA 1999). An introduced population on Mauritius is probably now extinct (H.G. Young in litt.2012). Although previously described as common in many areas of Madagascar (apparently with little supporting evidence; H.G. Young in litt. 2007), there has been a widespread decline since human colonisation, which has continued unabated over the last 20 years (Langrand 1990). It is probably no longer common anywhere, except perhaps in forested areas of the northwest and in the wetlands around Lake Alaotra where there are some breeding pairs, but where many non-breeders collect (H.G. Youngin litt. 2007), with up to 500 birds present (Morris and Hawkins 1998; ZICOMA 1999)(but see Randriamahefasoa 2001). All birds seem to be within a single subpopulation (B. Hughes in litt. 1998; Scott and Rose 1996), which is probably continuing to decline rapidly (Young and Rhymer 1998).

 

The Lac Alaotra wetlands, where historically the largest number of these birds was to be found, have suffered habitat destruction on a large scale in the latter half of the 20th century, and local waterbird populations have declined dramatically. The Madagascan pochard was rediscovered in 2006, though not in the Lac Alaotra area.

The conservation of this species was long hampered by its—entirely erroneous, see below—dismissal as a variant of the mallard which deserved no special interest. Due to its drab plumage and territorial habits, this species is not very popular among aviculturalists, although it reproduces readily in captivity like most ducks if enough space and good habitat are provided. Although a captive breeding program exists (part of the European Endangered Species Programme, EEP), the species is not very often kept in zoos either; it can be more frequently seen in Europe, such as in EEP members Cologne Zoo, Edinburgh Zoo, Durrell Wildlife Park, Safaripark Beekse Bergen and Zürich Zoo.

 

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Above: adult Meller's duck

 

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Above: adult Meller's duck

 

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Above: adult Meller's duck

 

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Above: close-up of adult Meller's duck

 

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Above: adult Meller's duck (in background: Chinese spot-billed duck).

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