Harteman Wildfowl, presented by Jan Harteman
The common pochard (Aythya ferina) is a medium-sized diving duck.
The adult male has a long dark bill with a grey band, a red head and neck, a black breast, red eyes and a grey back. The adult female has a brown head and body and a narrower grey bill-band. The triangular head shape is distinctive. Pochards are superficially similar to the closely related North American redhead and canvasback.
Females give hoarse growls. Males have whistles cut off by a final nasal note aaoo-oo-haa.
Their breeding habitat is marshes and lakes with a metre or more water depth. Pochards breed in much of temperate and northern Europe into Asia. They are migratory, and winter in the southern and west of Europe.
These are gregarious birds, forming large flocks in winter, often mixed with other diving ducks such as tufted duck, with which they are known to hybridise.
These birds feed mainly by diving or dabbling. They eat aquatic plants with some molluscs, aquatic insects and small fish. They often feed at night, and will up-end for food as well as the more characteristic diving.
This species has an extremely large range in both the breeding season and in winter, and an extremely large population. The population was not thought to be declining sufficiently rapidly to approach the threshold for Vulnerable under the population size reduction criterion. However new information suggests the population has declined rapidly across the majority of the range, and it has therefore been uplisted to Vulnerable (IUCN Redlist 2015). Although the species might be expected to benefit from a reduction in eutrophication, this does not appear to have been the case.
The global population is estimated to number c. 1,950,000-2,250,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2012). The European population is estimated at 198,000-285,000 pairs, which equates to 397,000-570,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015).
The overall population trend is decreasing, although some populations may be stable and others have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006). In Europe the population size is estimated to be decreasing by 30-49% in 22.8 years (three generations) (BirdLife International 2015). In winter, the population size in Europe is estimated to be decreasing at the same rate. Europe holds between 35% (breeding) and 40% (wintering) of the global population, so these declines are significant. The flyway population breeding in western Siberia and wintering in south-west Asia also appears to be declining, although this may at least partly reflect recent variation in monitoring effort (Nagy et al. 2014). No recent information is available about the sizes or trends of the two other flyway populations, which breed in central Asia and winter in south and east Asia, respectively (Wetlands International 2012), and which together are thought to comprise around one third of the global population. Populations in Bangladesh (S. Chowdhury in litt. 2015), Japan (K. Ushiyama in litt. 2015) and South Korea (N. Moores in litt. 2015) are reported to be decreasing. Population declines have not been observed in China (M. Ming in litt. 2015) or Mongolia (S. Gombobaatar in litt. 2015).
Above: adult drake Common pochard, breeding plumage (spring)
Above: adult drake Common pochard in breeding plumage (spring)
Above: adult pair of Common pochards (female in front)
Above: adult drake Common pochard, early summer (starting to moult)
Above: adult female Common pochard
Above: adult drake Common pochard, summer plumage (eclipse moult)
Above: adult female Common pochard, summer plumage