Thursday, March 10, 2016

Tufted Duck

Rare European Duck Visits Saint John - Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula

Tufted Duck Male
A rare European duck has been wintering in Saint John.  The Tufted Duck is a species that normally breeds in Iceland, northern Scandinavia and Russia.  It usually winters in the British Isles, mainland Europe and around the Mediterranean.  Finding it in New Brunswick is unusual.  However, we occasionally have one winter here.  A male was first found wintering here in Saint John in 1995-96.  Others have been seen at Moncton in 1996, Grand Manan 1997, Dalhousie 1998, and a male seen by me and others at Sheffield on the St. John River in 2000.  So, it is unusual but not totally unexpected.

Tufted Duck Female
The Tufted Duck is closely related to the Greater Scaup, the Lesser Scaup and the Ferruginous Duck (European).  Although the male Tufted Duck looks much like the Scaup it stands out from among them by its black back, its round head which sports a long tuft down the back.  The female looks much like the female Scaup but has a darker brown back and breast and paler flanks.  Sometimes you can see her very small tuft.

The Tufted Duck in Saint John is hanging out with both Lesser Scaup and Ring-necked Ducks.  The Ring-necked Duck has more white on its bill and has a showy white wedge between the flank and the breast.

Tufted Duck Immature Male
The immature male Tufted Duck shows a grayish mottled flank and a shorter tuft.  When males fly they show extensive white on the trailing edges of the wings.

The Tufted Duck is abundant and widespread.  It is a rare but regular visitor to our west coast and south to California.  They feed in shallow water  by diving for seeds, roots, clams, snails, aquatic insects and occasionally amphibians and fish.  My references indicate they utter a low whistle during courtship.  I haven't been lucky enough to hear that.

Tufted Ducks - Female, 2 Males
The photo above shows how distinctive are the black back and tufts of the males.  The female is usually with the males and her dark brown colour makes her relatively easy to spot.

The photos in this post were taken by me in Newfoundland where there is often a small wintering flock of Tufted Ducks.

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