|Photo by Mustafa Sozen (Trek Nature)|
These birds breed in southern Europe, from Portugal and Spain to the Ukraine, with some populations as far north as Germany and Poland. Then, through Turkey and the Caucasus they are found in central Asia, in Kazakhstan, southern Russia, north-western China and Mongolia. Some population migrate south to winter around the Mediterranean, in the Nile valley and in the Indian sub-continent.
This large diving duck is 45-57 cm long and has a wingspan of 84-90 cm. They weigh 1-1,5 kg.
The red-crested pochard is mainly found in fresh or brackish water lakes and lagoons, with abundant aquatic vegetation. They may also be found in coastal areas, estuaries, and along rivers.
They feed on various aquatic plants and algae, but also grasses and sometimes aquatic invertebrates.
Red-crested pochards breed in April-July. The nest is built on the ground, never far from water, consisting of a conical structure made of grasses, leaves, rushes and down. There the female lays 6-12 creamy white or pale green eggs, which she incubates alone for 26-28 days while the male stands guard. The chicks leave the nest soon after hatching and are able to feed themselves, but rely on their mother for brooding and protection until they fledge, 45-50 days after hatching.
IUCN status – LC (Least Concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and is described as uncommon. The overall population trend is uncertain, as some populations are decreasing, while others are increasing, stable, or have unknown trends. They main threats affecting the red-crested pochard are the degradation of wetland habitats and hunting, but in some areas poisoning from lead shot ingestion and drowning on fresh water fishing nets are also a problem.