Ferruginous Duck (Aythya nyroca)

Ferruginous Duck

[order] ANSERIFORMES | [family] Anatidae | [latin] Aythya nyroca | [authority] Guldenstdt, 1770 | [UK] Ferruginous Duck | [FR] Fuligule nyroca | [DE] Moorente | [ES] Porron Pardo | [NL] Witoogeend


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Aythya nyroca EU w, c


Aythya is a genus of diving ducks. It has twelve described species. Aythya shihuibas was described from the Late Miocene of China. An undescribed prehistoric species is known only from Early Pleistocene fossil remains found at Dursunlu, Turkey; it might however be referrable to a paleosubspecies of an extant species considering its age. The Miocene “Aythya” arvernensis is now placed in Mionetta, while “Aythya” chauvirae seems to contain the remains of 2 species, at least one of which does not seem to be a diving duck.

Physical charateristics

Male has small white spot on chin, blackish collar and eclipse plumage.
Female duller, browner with inconspicuous small white spots on throat.
Juvenile very similar to female but lacks white undertail-coverts and has silvery brown underparts with blackish barring on breast.

Listen to the sound of Ferruginous Duck

[audio:http://www.planetofbirds.com/MASTER/ANSERIFORMES/Anatidae/sounds/Ferruginous Duck.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 62 cm wingspan max.: 70 cm
size min.: 43 cm size max.: 48 cm
incubation min.: 25 days incubation max.: 27 days
fledging min.: 55 days fledging max.: 27 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 8  
      eggs max.: 12  


Eurasia : West, Central


Concentrated in lowland, continental middle latitudes, extending to high altitudes only sporadically (eg. in Georgia and Armenia). During breeding, prefers fairly shallow expanses of water, rich in submergent and floating vegetation, fringed
by dense stands of emergent plants. Large river deltas often support substantial breeding numbers, as do open floodplains with numerous oxbows and shallow lakes/ponds. In some areas, saline, brackish or alkaline wetlands are commonly utilised
for breeding, for example in Hungary, Romania and Turkey. In central and eastern Europe, extensively managed fishponds are an important breeding habitat, which are similar in character to natural floodplain wetlands. During the non-breeding season habitat choice is similar, though coastal waters, inland seas and large, open lagoons are also frequented.


The species forms monogamous pair bonds of seasonal duration. The nest is usually located on the ground close to water, or above water or on floating rafts of dense reeds and other aquatic vegetation. A single clutch is laid containing 7-10 eggs. Incubation begins from late May to late June in southern Europe, and up to a month later further north. Eggs hatch after 25-
28 days. Only one brood is reared per year. Brood size varies from 3-12 ducklings. Fledging takes 55-60 days.

Feeding habits

Green part of aquatic plants and grass , leaves, stems, roots and seeds. Occasionally aquatic invertebrates and insects amphibians and small fish.
Feeds by diving, upending head-dipping and dabbling also filters mud on shore.

Video Ferruginous Duck


copyright: youtube


Given that this species’s range may fluctuate considerably from year to year – particularly in Asia – owing to changing water levels, it is very hard to estimate the global population or trends. There have been rapid declines in Europe, but evidence of declines in the larger Asian populations is sparse, and sometimes contradictory, so it is currently listed as Near Threatened. Evidence of rapid declines in Asia would qualify the species for uplisting to Vulnerable.
Aythya nyroca is a widespread but patchily distributed breeder across much of Europe,
which accounts for less than half of its global breeding range. Its European breeding
population is relatively small (<18,000 pairs), and declined substantially between 1970- 1990. Although the species was stable or increased in many countries during 1990- 2000, several populations-notably key ones in Romania and Croatia-declined, and the species underwent a large decline (>30%) overall.
This diving duck has a wide distribution in the temperate regions of Eurasia, from the Iberian Peninsula and the Baltic coast to Mongolia and south-western China. Its European population, estimated at 10000 individuals, is mainly wintering in the Mediterranean regions and in western sub-Saharan Africa. Its population of the European Union is strongly fragmented or even relict. In 1995 it could be estimated at 340-560 breeding pairs, but everywhere this bird is still declining.

The Ferruginous Duck is a little studied, partial migrant, widely distributed in Europe, Asia and Africa. During the first quarter of the 20th century, it was described as one of the most plentiful Anatidae species over a great part of its range. Since then, it has undergone a large, long-term decline globally. The species is regularly recorded in 77 countries and in at least 26 others as a vagrant. The most important known countries for breeding birds are Romania (5,500-6,500 pairs), Azerbaijan (1,000-3,000 pairs), Croatia (2,000-3,000 pairs) and Kazakhstan (2,000-3,000 pairs). In winter, significant numbers of birds have been counted in Bangladesh (70,000 birds), Turkmenistan (21,000 birds), Mali (up to 14,300 birds), Kazakhstan (10,500 birds), Uzbekistan (>7,000 birds), Sudan (>5,000 birds), Egypt (7,500 birds), and Azerbaijan (1,000-9,000 birds). Simply adding the national population estimates for the 35 countries with data on numbers of breeding pairs resulted in an estimated global breeding population of 14,000-23,000 pairs with a wintering population of 42,000-69,000.

The Ferruginous Duck is thought to breed in 45 countries worldwide. Of the 43 countries with trend data, no estimate of population trend was available for 16 countries. Most (13) of the remaining 27 countries had decreasing numbers of breeding Ferruginous Ducks over the last seven year period and only two (Greece and Italy) had increasing numbers. Six of the 27
countries experienced declines of at least 50%, and seven declines of 20-49%. In eight countries breeding numbers were stable
and in four numbers fluctuated with changes of at least 20%, but with no clear trend since 1995. Trends in wintering numbers are unclear. Of 69 countries thought to hold wintering Ferruginous Ducks, no estimate of population trend was available for 52 countries. Of the 17 countries for which data were available, 10 countries had fluctuating numbers. Of the seven remaining countries, two experienced declines of at least 50%, three declines of 20-49% and two an increase of 20-49%.
Ferruginous Duck status Near Threatened


Has suffered several reductions in number and in several parts of range has become extremely local. Wintering population in W Palearctic estimated at 50,000 in mid 1980’s, mostly in C Mediterranean area; average of 300 wintering birds in Israel. USSR breeding population evaluated at c. 140,000 pairs in 1970 but had fallen down to c. 5200 pairs in 1984. Winter 1991 census yielded 95 birds in Saudi Arabia, 598 in Iran, 9000 in Azerbaijan and 20,833 in Turkmenistan; in several localities of Pakistan, more than 100 birds counted; largest concentrations, from available data, correspond to Hail Haor, Sylhet, Bangladesh, where up to 4000-5000 birds counted in years with good growth of aquatic vegetation; maximum available figures in India of 630 counted in 17 lakes in Central Rajasthan in Nov 1982, and 670 in Khijadia Lakes, Gujarat recently. Wintering census in tropical Africa yielded maximum of 6450, with estimated 7000-10,000 in W Africa; L Horo, Mali seems to be the most important refuge. Decline is mainly attributed to habitat destruction; however, the species also pays heavy toll to hunting pressure. Urgent need to establish network of appropriate reserves.

Moult movements are poorly understood, but large flocks of moulting individuals gather regularly, often in several larger deltas of eastern Europe (e.g. Volga, Dnestr and Danube). A number of Croatian fishponds support post-breeding flocks of several hundred to thousands of birds. Departure from breeding localities begins in September and peaks in October. The first
birds arrive back in the wintering areas south of the Sahara in late October.

Distribution map

Ferruginous Duck distribution range map

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