Red-crested Pochard

Netta rufina

The picture shows a swimming Red-crested Pochard in the Hellabrunn Zoo. IUCN Red List endangerment category: Least concern
  • Family
    Anatidae (Ducks, geese and swans)
  • Weight
    600 – 1.000 g
  • Habitat
    Inland waterways

Unusual diving duck

Red-crested pochards are diving ducks that feed by diving beneath the surface of the water in search of food. Like other diving ducks, they also need to run across the water a short distance to take flight. But the red-crested pochard has a few distinguishing characteristics: in addition to diving, they also dabble for their food, upending with only with their head under water while their bottom points to the air. Also unusual for a diving duck is that they mainly feed on plant food, especially stoneworts (green algae).

The way to one’s heart is through the stomach

Male red-crested pochard can easily be recognised all year round by their red eyes and bill. Their ritualised courtship feeding in search of a partner begins as early as at the wintering ground: the group ritual involves one or more females being wooed by at least five males. The males dive and bring food offerings to the females, who occasionally accept them. The red-crested pochard is the only waterfowl to engage in courtship feeding.

Red-crested pochards chose their wintering ground not because of climate, but the food supply. Birds that breed in Spain therefore often fly north after the breeding season, i.e. contrary to most migratory birds.