Red-crested Pochard

Netta rufina

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The red-crested pochard did not colonise Central Europe until the beginning of the 20th century. It is a gregarious diving duck that forms larger groups outside the breeding season. It dives or forages for aquatic plants, which it also locates from the surface of the water. Its main foods are stoneworts (Charophyceae) and pondweed (Potamogeton). Dives are initiated by a short head dive. This specimen shows a male in its breeding plumage, although already somewhat faded: a reddish rufous feather crest, black nape, neck and breast, pale flanks, bright red bill (no longer visible on the specimen) and red iris. The female is predominantly grey-brown in colour, darker on the back, the top of the head is dark brown, the cheek area pale, the bill brown with a pink patch at the tip of the bill. The red-crested pochard is an adaptable species. It inhabits larger, clean inland waters with siltation zones and reed beds, lagoons, also small ponds and dealpine rivers. Its breeding range in Central Asia is extensive, whereas in Central Europe it is insular. In Germany, it is a regular migrant and moulting visitor, but only a rarely breeds here. Its breeding grounds are not regularly occupied. It is a resident, partial or medium-distance migrant. In south-western Central Europe, red-crested pochards now winter in their thousands on Lake Constance. They breed in small groups, whereby courtship feeding, untypical for ducks, is manifested. Well hidden in dense vegetation, the nest is built as a ground nest close to the water. The female lays 6 to 12 cream-coloured to light green eggs, sometimes two females share a nest. Breeding and chick rearing is the responsibility of the female. Unlike other duck species, however, the drake stays close to the nest and guards it when the female takes a break. The precocial chicks hatch after an average of 26 days and are fledged after about 50 days.

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