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Tufted duck

Aythya fuligula

Kuifeend / Reiherente / Fuligule morilion


The Tufted duck is a medium-sized diving duck with a population of close to one million birds. The tufted duck 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. It is believed to have expanded its traditional range with the increased availability of open water due to gravel extraction, and the spread of freshwater mussels, a favourite food. 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. They will form large flocks on open water in winter.


Their breeding habitat is close to marshes and lakes with plenty of vegetation to conceal the nest. They are also found on coastallagoons, the seashore, and sheltered ponds. These birds feed mainly by diving, but they will sometimes upend from the surface. They eat molluscs, aquatic insects and some plants and sometimes feed at night.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern (IUCN, 2012).


The global population is estimated to number c.2,600,000-2,900,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2006), while national population sizes have been estimated at c.10,000-100,000 breeding pairs and c.1,000-10,000 wintering individuals in China and c.1,000-10,000 individuals on migration and c.1,000-10,000 wintering individuals in Taiwan (Brazil 2009).


The species is threatened by habitat degradation due to oil pollution, drainage, peat-extraction and changing land management practices (Grishanov 2006) (e.g. decreased grazing and mowing in meadows leading to scrub over-growth (Grishanov 2006) and agricultural intensification (Kear 2005a)) in breeding areas (Kear 2005a, Grishanov 2006). It also suffers decreased reproductive success as a result of disturbance from increased recreational use of inland waterbodies (Kear 2005a), machinery noise from urban development (Marsden 2000), hunting (Evans and Day 2002) and predation by American mink Neovison vison on islands (Nordstrom et al. 2002). The species is susceptible to avian influenza so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the virus (Melville and Shortridge 2006). The species is hunted for sport Denmark (Bregnballe et al. 2006), Italy (Sorrenti et al. 2006) and Iran (Balmaki and Barati 2006), and is hunted commercially in Iran (Balmaki and Barati 2006). The eggs of this species were (and possibly still are) harvested in Iceland (Gudmundsson 1979).



Above: adult drake Tufted duck, breeding plumage



Above: adult female Tufted duck



Above: adult drake Tufted duck, breeding plumage



Above: close-up of adult drake Tufted duck



Above: juvenile female Tufted duck



Above: adult female Tufted duck with ducklings using the nest of Common coot.



Scaups and closest related diving ducks (genus Aythya): (1) greater scaup, (2) lesser scaup, (3) ring-necked duck, (4) tufted duck and (5) New-Zealand scaup. Click image to enlarge. 

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