Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina)

Red-crested Pochard

[order] ANSERIFORMES | [family] Anatidae | [latin] Netta rufina | [authority] Pallas, 1773 | [UK] Red-crested Pochard | [FR] Nette rousse | [DE] Kolbenente | [ES] Pato Colorado | [NL] Krooneend


Genus Species subspecies Region Range
Netta rufina EU w, c


Netta is a genus of diving ducks. Unlike other diving ducks, the Netta species are reluctant to dive, and feed more like dabbling ducks. These are gregarious ducks, mainly found on fresh water. They are strong fliers; their broad, blunt-tipped wings require faster wing-beats than those of many ducks and they take off with some difficulty. They do not walk as well on land as the dabbling ducks because their legs tend to be placed further back on their bodies to help propel them when underwater. The probably extinct Pink-headed Duck, previously listed as Rhodonessa caryophyllacea, has recently been shown by phylogenetic analysis to be closely related to the Red-crested Pochard, so has now been transferred to the same genus, as Netta caryophyllacea. However, this has been questioned due to numerous and pronounced peculiarities of that species.

Physical charateristics

Larger than a pochard, the male has an orange-brown head with a red beak and pale flanks. Females are brown with pale cheeks. In flight they show whitish primaries. Male has eclipse plumage, iris and bill red.
Female has characteristic pale sides of face and neck, contrasting with dark brown cap and hind neck, reminiscent of female Melanitta nigra, but paler with thinner, bicolored bill.
Juvenile very similar to female but darker with more mottled underparts.

Listen to the sound of Red-crested Pochard

[audio: Pochard.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 85 cm wingspan max.: 90 cm
size min.: 53 cm size max.: 57 cm
incubation min.: 26 days incubation max.: 28 days
fledging min.: 45 days fledging max.: 28 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 7  
      eggs max.: 11  


Eurasia : West, Central


Deep, large lakes and lagoons of fresh or brackish waters with abundant border vegetation, mainly inland in open country, sometimes near coast, on river deltas, estuaries and other marine habitats.


Eggs are laid from early May in central and southern Europe and from mid-May in southern Russia. The nest is build on the ground in dense vegetation, often deep in bush. Also in dense reed and rush beds. The nest is never far from water, occasionally on matted reeds in water. The nest is a small depression lined with grass, leaves, rushes, and down. Cup formed by turning movements of body.
Clutch size is 8-10, sometimes 6 up to 14. Dump nests by 2 or more females not infrequent, up to 39 eggs reported in one. Also nest parasitism often recorded, with eggs laid in nests of Mallard, Gadwall, and others. The incubation lasts 26-28 days. The young fledge after 45-50 days and are self feeding cared for by females. She will brood small ducklings at night.
When fledged the young are independent. First breeding at 1 year, though some probably not until 2

Feeding habits

Vegetarian. Green part of aquatic plants and grass , leaves, stems, roots and seeds. Occasionally aquatic invertebrates and insects.
Feeds by diving, upending head-dipping and dabbling .

Video Red-crested Pochard


copyright: youtube


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 is not known, but the population is not believed to be decreasing sufficiently rapidly to approach the thresholds under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very 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.
Netta rufina is a widespread but patchily distributed breeder in west-central and southern Europe, which accounts for less than half of its global breeding range. Its European breeding population is relatively small (<59,000 pairs), and declined markedly between 1970-1990. Although the species declined in a few countries during 1990-2000, many populations (including the Russian stronghold) increased or were stable, and it underwent a moderate increase overall. This increase probably outweighs the earlier decline.
This duck has a fragmented distribution from the Iberian peninsula, southern and eastern Europe to Central Asia, mainly in steppe regions. The small population inhabiting north-western Europe (United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands) seems to originate from captive birds, and is currently increasing. The birds of south-western and western Europe are partly sedentary, partly migratory. They are totalling 25000 individuals, and seem to decline. The birds seen in Greece and southern Italy belong the population of the Black Sea and eastern Mediterranean regions, estimated at 50000 individuals.
Red-crested Pochard status Least Concern


Migratory and partially migratory. Most or all leave breeding range north of 46 degrees N; in west and central Europe, northernmost regular wintering places in Switzerland; infrequent winter records north and north-west Europe likely to include escapes. Rare but regular autumn migrant to south-east England c. 1952-62, occurrences apparently correlated with moult flocking in Netherlands. Main wintering areas include Spain and south France in west, Balkans, Turkey, and further east shores of Caspian.
Main autumn migration in west and east late October and early November; by December, most in winter quarters. Return movement February-March; most northern and eastern breeding areas re-occupied April and early May.

Distribution map

Red-crested Pochard distribution range map

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