This species is listed as Endangered because it is believed to have a very small, although widely dispersed, population, all in one subpopulation, which is undergoing a continuing decline owing to intensive hunting, habitat loss and degradation, and disturbance.
Dowsett, R. J.; Forbes-Watson, A. D. 1993. Checklist of birds of the Afrotropical and Malagasy regions. Tauraco Press, Li
Sibley, C. G.; Monroe, B. L. 1990. Distribution and taxonomy of birds of the world. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
Distribution and populationAnas melleri
55-68 cm. Large duck, rather dark brown all over, with narrow paler fringes to feathers on upperparts and wider fringes on underparts, superficially similar to a dark female Mallard A. platyrhynchos, but with no supercilium. Head is dark, upperwing has green speculum bordered narrowly by white, underwing conspicuously whitish. Paler grey, rather long bill, with varying dark patches at base. Orange legs and feet. Similar spp. Told from other wild ducks by lack of conspicuous white in upperwing, overall dark appearance, large size, long bill, and whitish underwings.
is endemic to Madagascar
, where it is found on the eastern and northern high plateau, in eastern drainage patterns (H.G. Young in litt.
. There are populations on isolated massifs on the western edges of the plateau (H.G. Young in litt.
. Records from the west (B. Hughes in litt
. 1998; Stattersfield et al.
below the plateau (H.G. Young in litt.
, probably refer to vagrant or wandering birds (ZICOMA 1999)
. An introduced population on Mauritius
is probably now extinct (H.G. Young in litt.
. Although previously described as common in many areas of Madagascar (apparently with little supporting evidence; H.G. Young in litt.
), there has been a widespread decline since human colonisation, which has continued unabated over the last 20 years (Langrand 1990)
. It is probably no longer common anywhere, except perhaps in forested areas of the northwest and in the wetlands around Lake Alaotra where there are some breeding pairs, but where many non-breeders collect (H.G. Young in litt.
, with up to 500 birds present (Morris and Hawkins 1998; ZICOMA 1999)
(but see Randriamahefasoa 2001)
. All birds seem to be within a single subpopulation (B. Hughes in litt
. 1998; Scott and Rose 1996)
, which is probably continuing to decline rapidly (Young and Rhymer 1998)
. Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,000-5,000 individuals, roughly equating to 1,300-3,300 mature individuals (H. G. Young in litt.
Randriamahefasoa (2001) states that there are very high hunting levels on Lake Alaotra, an important site. Hunting is intensive and possibly similar to that at Lake Alaotra over much of its range, and the species is very intolerant of human disturbance, so the establishment of agriculture will cause birds to leave a site (H. G. Young in litt.
2012). In light of this report, rapid declines are suspected to be occurring over much of its range.EcologyBehaviour
This species is largely sedentary, although there exist some records from the west coast where it does not usually occur, suggesting that it may wander to some degree within Madagascar (Ellis-Joseph et al
. 1992; Morris and Hawkins 1998)
. Nesting usually takes place during the months of September-April (Langrand 1990; Scott and Rose 1996)
, with the exact timing thought to be dependent upon levels of rainfall (Kear 2005b
. It has been recorded to breed as early as July (Kear 2005b
. During the breeding season it usually occurs in pairs (Johnsgard 1978)
, and is highly territorial and aggressive, particularly towards conspecifics (H.G. Young in litt.
2007, 2012; Johnsgard 1978)
, with pairs defending territories of up to 2 km in length (H.G. Young in litt.
. Non-breeding birds often congregate in small groups (Kear 2005b
; Johnsgard 1978)
, or occasionally in large numbers, with flocks of over 200 birds recorded at Lake Alaotra (Langrand 1990; Scott and Rose 1996; Kear 2005b
This species occurs in inland freshwater wetland (Young and Rhymer 1998)
habitats from sea-level to 2000 m (Del Hoyo et al
. It is most often found in small streams that run east off the high plateau (H.G. Young in litt.
, but also inhabits lakes, rivers, woodland ponds and marshes, especially in humid forested areas (Langrand 1990; Scott and Rose 1996; Stattersfield et al.
1998; H.G. Young in litt.
. It is sometimes found in rice-fields (Del Hoyo et al
. 1992; Johnsgard 1978)
. It favours slow-moving water but will inhabit faster-moving streams and rivers when the preferred habitat is not available (Del Hoyo et al
. 1992; Kear 2005b)
. It rarely inhabits coastal regions (Johnsgard 1978)
It especially breeds along small streams and backwaters around lakes (Young et al.
, and also probably along undisturbed rivers (Pidgeon 1996; Young et al.
This species forages mainly by dabbling (H.G. Young in litt.
2007; Kear 2005b)
, but may also forage on land (Kear 2005b
. Its diet includes aquatic seeds and plants (Langrand 1990; H.G. Young in litt.
as well as invertebrates, particularly molluscs (Kear 2005b
). In captivity small fish, chironomid flies, filamentous algae and grasses are also eaten (Kear 2005b
). Its presence in rice-fields suggests that it consumes rice when available (Johnsgard 1978)
. Breeding Site
The nest is constructed from dry grass, leaves and other vegetation, and is built among tufts of herbaceous vegetation on the ground at the water's edge (Young and Rhymer 1998; Young et al.
2000; Del Hoyo et al
. ThreatsA. melleri
is among the largest species of wildfowl found in Madagascar and is widely hunted and trapped for subsistence (and for sport) (Ellis-Joseph et al
. 1992; Scott and Rose 1996).
Interviews with hunters at Lake Alaotra suggest c.
450 individuals are taken each year, constituting 18% of the global population (Randriamahefasoa 2001)
. Long term deforestation of the central plateau, conversion of marshes to rice-paddies and degradation of water quality in rivers and streams, as a result of deforestation and soil erosion, have probably contributed to its decline (Scott and Rose 1996; H.G. Young in litt.
. Widespread exotic carnivorous fishes, notably Micropterus salmoides
(although this may now be extinct) and Channa spp.
, may threaten young (H.G. Young in litt.
and cause desertion of otherwise suitable habitat (Kear 2005b
). Its decline on Mauritius has been attributed to hunting, pollution and introduced rats and mongooses (Ellis-Joseph et al
. 1992; H.G. Young in litt.
as well as possible displacement by introduced Common Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
(Young and Rhymer 1998).
Pairs are very territorial and susceptible to human disturbance (H.G. Young in litt.
. Conservation actions underway
The species occurs in at least seven protected areas, and is known from 14 Important Bird Areas (78% of eastern Malagasy wetland IBAs) (ZICOMA 1999). No regular breeding sites are known. In 2007, there was a drive to increase the number of institutions that keep the species in captivity (Young 2007). It is a nationally protected species.Conservation actions proposed
Protect remaining areas of least-modified wetlands at Lake Alaotra. Conduct wide-scale status surveys of eastern wetlands. Study its ecology to identify all causes of its decline.
Johnsgard, P. A. 1978. Ducks, geese and swans of the World. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London.
Langrand, O. 1990. Guide to the birds of Madagascar. Yale University Press, New Haven, USA.
del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.
Ellis-Joseph, S.; Hewston, N.; Green, A. 1992. Global waterfowl conservation assessment and management plan.
Morris, P.; Hawkins, F. 1998. Birds of Madagascar: a photographic guide. Pica Press, Robertsbridge, UK.
Pidgeon, M. 1996. Summary: an ecological survey of Lake Alaotra and selected wetlands of central and eastern Madagascar in analysing the demise of Madagascar Pochard Aythya innotata. Working Group on Birds in the Madagascar Region Newsletter 6(2): 17-19.
Scott, D. A.; Rose, P. M. 1996. Atlas of Anatidae populations in Africa and western Eurasia. Wetlands International, Wageningen, Netherlands.
Stattersfield, A. J.; Crosby, M. J.; Long, A. J.; Wege, D. C. 1998. Endemic bird areas of the world: priorities for bird conservation. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.
Young, H. G.; Rhymer, J. M. 1998. Meller's Duck: a threatened species recieves recognition at last. Biodiversity and Conservation 7(10): 1313-1323.
ZICOMA. 1999. Zones d'Importance pour la Conservation des Oiseaux a Madagascar.
Young, H. G.; Razafindrajao, F.; Raveloson, B.; O'Connor, S. 2000. Angaka 2000: a project to determine the nesting habitat of Meller's Duck Anas melleri..
Randriamahefasoa, J. 2001. Impact of hunting on Meller's Duck Anas melleri at Lac Alaotra, Madagascar. Dodo: Journal of the Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust 37: 98.
Kear, J. 2005. Ducks, geese and swans volume 2: species accounts (Cairina to Mergus). Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.
Young, H. G. 2007. Wanted: new holders for the Meller's Duck EEP. EAZA News: 29.
Further web sources of information
View photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection
Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Ekstrom, J., Evans, M., Pilgrim, J., Robertson, P., Starkey, M., Symes, A., Taylor, J.
Hughes, B., Young, G.
IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Taylor, J.
BirdLife International (2013) Species factsheet: Anas melleri. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 20/05/2013.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2013) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from
http://www.birdlife.org on 20/05/2013.
This information is based upon, and updates, the information published in BirdLife International (2000)
Threatened birds of the world. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, BirdLife International (2004)
Threatened birds of the world 2004 CD-ROM and BirdLife International (2008) Threatened birds of the world 2008 CD-ROM. These sources provide the information for species accounts for the birds on the IUCN Red List.
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Additional resources for this species