email a friend
printable version
Common Pochard Aythya ferina

This species has an extremely large range in both the breeding season and in winter, and an extremely large population. The population was not thought to be declining sufficiently rapidly to approach the threshold for Vulnerable under the population size reduction criterion. However new information suggests the population has declined rapidly across the majority of the range, and it has therefore been uplisted to Vulnerable. Although the species might be expected to benefit from a reduction in eutrophication, this does not appear to have been the case.

Taxonomic source(s)
AERC TAC. 2003. AERC TAC Checklist of bird taxa occurring in Western Palearctic region, 15th Draft. Available at: # _the_WP15.xls#.
Cramp, S.; Perrins, C. M. 1977-1994. Handbook of the birds of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The birds of the western Palearctic. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
del Hoyo, J.; Collar, N. J.; Christie, D. A.; Elliott, A.; Fishpool, L. D. C. 2014. HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World. Barcelona, Spain and Cambridge UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

42-49 cm, wingspan 72-82 cm (Snow and Perrins 1998). Breeding male has rufous-chestnut head, blackish breast, upper mantle, undertail-coverts, rump and tail, silver-grey flight feathers and almost white underwing, grey body, dark grey bill with black tip and bright orange-red eyes (Carboneras and Kirwan 2014). Eclipse plumage similar to adult female. Female has dull brown head with pale grey eyestripe, throat, lores and cheeks. Body greyish-brown, darker above. Wings generally browner than those of male. Bill dull grey/black with black tip and eyes brown. Juvenile resembles adult female. Similar species Redhead A. americana very similar but male A. ferina has red rather than yellow iris, different pattern on bill, female A. ferina has different bill colour and whiter flanks. Male A. ferina smaller than Canvasback A. valisineria, which is paler with blackish wash to head, flatter forehead and much longer, all-dark bill (Carboneras and Kirwan 2014). Voice Male generally silent but makes wheezy whistles in display, female makes mainly monosyllabic calls (Carboneras and Kirwan 2014).

Distribution and population
The species breeds from western Europe through central Asia to south-central Siberia and northern China (Carboneras and Kirwan 2014). It is present throughout the year but may make within-winter movements. European migratory populations winter mostly in north-western and western Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, as well as in Turkey, the Middle East and as far south as sub-Saharan Africa (Hagemeijer and Blair 1997, Carboneras and Kirwan 2014). Birds breeding in east of range winter in south-east and east Asia across the Indian sub-continent as far east as Japan.

Population justification
The global population is estimated to number c. 1,950,000-2,250,000 individuals (Wetlands International 2012). The European population is estimated at 198,000-285,000 pairs, which equates to 397,000-570,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015).

Trend justification
The overall population trend is decreasing, although some populations may be stable and others have unknown trends (Wetlands International 2006). In Europe the population size is estimated to be decreasing by 30-49% in 22.8 years (three generations) (BirdLife International 2015). In winter, the population size in Europe is estimated to be decreasing at the same rate. Europe holds between 35% (breeding) and 40% (wintering) of the global population, so these declines are significant. The flyway population breeding in western Siberia and wintering in south-west Asia also appears to be declining, although this may at least partly reflect recent variation in monitoring effort (Nagy et al. 2014). No recent information is available about the sizes or trends of the two other flyway populations, which breed in central Asia and winter in south and east Asia, respectively (Wetlands International 2012), and which together are thought to comprise around one third of the global population. Populations in Bangladesh (S. Chowdhury in litt. 2015), Japan (K. Ushiyama in litt. 2015) and South Korea (N. Moores in litt. 2015) are reported to be decreasing. Population declines have not been observed in China (M. Ming in litt. 2015) or Mongolia (S. Gombobaatar in litt. 2015).

This species requires well-vegetated eutrophic to neutral swamps, marshes, lakes and slow-flowing rivers with areas of open water and abundant emergent fringing vegetation. It also breeds on saline, brackish and soda lakes and occasionally even in sheltered coastal bays (Kear 2005). The breeding grounds are reoccupied from early March (in the south) to early May (in Siberia) (Scott and Rose 1996) with breeding starting from April-May. During the winter the species frequents similar habitats to those it breeds in, including large lakes, slow-flowing rivers, reservoirs, brackish waters, marshes, weirs (Africa) and flooded gravel pits (Brown et al. 1982, Madge and Burn 1988, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Fox et al. 1994, Scott and Rose 1996). The nest is a depression or shallow cup in a thick heap of vegetation positioned on the ground in shallow water (Johnsgard 1978, Madge and Burn 1988, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Snow and Perrins 1998, Kear 2005b). As in the breeding season, the species will shift to coastal habitats such as brackish lagoons, tidal estuaries and inshore waters (where it associates with sewage outfalls [Kear 2005b]) when driven by frost or other compelling factors (Madge and Burn 1988, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Scott and Rose 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998).

The species is omnivorous, its diet consisting of seeds, roots, rhizomes, the vegetative parts of grasses, sedges and aquatic plants as well as aquatic insects and larvae, molluscs, crustaceans, worms, amphibians and small fish (Johnsgard 1978, Brown et al. 1982, del Hoyo et al. 1992, Marsden and Bellamy 2000, Kear 2005b).

Northern populations of this species are highly migratory (Scott and Rose 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998). Those breeding in the milder parts of western or southern Europe are sedentary or only make short-distance dispersal movements  governed by harsh weather conditions (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Scott and Rose 1996, Snow and Perrins 1998). 

The species is threatened by disturbance from hunting (del Hoyo et al. 1992, Evans and Day 2002, Kear 2005b), water-based recreation (Fox et al. 1994, Kear 2005b) and from machinery noise from urban development (Marsden 2000). It is also threatened by habitat destruction (del Hoyo et al. 1992) on its wintering grounds due to eutrophication (partially as a result of nutrient run-off from agricultural land) (Kear 2005b, L. Raudonikis in litt. 2015). The species suffers from nest predation by American Mink Neovison vison in Poland (Bartoszewicz and Zalewski 2003), and adults are poisoned by ingesting lead shot (Spain) (Mateo et al. 1998) and drowned in freshwater fishing nets with mesh sizes greater than 5 cm (China) (Quan et al. 2002). The species is also susceptible to avian influenza, so may be threatened by future outbreaks of the disease (Melville and Shortridge 2006).

It is hunted in numerous countries across the range including Northern Ireland (Evans and Day 2002), Spain (Mateo et al. 1998) and Italy (Sorrenti et al. 2006), and the eggs of this species used to be (and possibly still are) harvested in Iceland (Gudmundsson 1979). The species is also hunted for commercial and recreational purposes in Gilan Province, northern Iran (Balmaki and Barati 2006).

Conservation and Research Actions Underway
EU Birds Directive Annex II. CMS Appendix II. The cyclical removal of adult fish from an artificial waterbody (gravel pit) in the U.K. attracted nesting pairs to the area by causing an increase in invertebrate food availability and an increase in the growth of submerged aquatic macrophytes. The removed fish (dead or alive) were sold to generate funds (Giles 1994). In the Trebon Basin Biosphere Reserve, Czech Republic, it was found that artificial islands and wide strips of littoral vegetation are the most secure breeding habitats that can be created for the species (nest survival in littoral habitats was improved by reduced nest visibility, increased water depth, and increased distance from the nest to the habitat edge, and nest survival on islands was improved with increased distance to open water) (Albrecht et al. 2006). The use of lead shot in Europe is being phased out.

Conservation and Research Actions Proposed
This species would benefit from the protection and maintenance of wetland habitat. Lead shot use should continue to be prohibited and legislation properly enforced. Accurate monitoring of bag numbers in countries where this species is hunted should be implemented and maintained. Reduce nutrient run-off from agricultural land.

Albrecht, T.; Horák, D.; Kreisinger, J.; Weidinger, K.; Klvana, P.; Michot, T. C. 2006. Factors Determining Pochard Nest Predation Along a Wetland Gradient. Journal of Wildlife Management 70(3): 784-791.

Balmaki, B.; Barati, A. 2006. Harvesting status of migratory waterfowl in northern Iran: a case study from Gilan Province. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 868-869. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Bartoszewicz, M.; Zalewski, A. 2003. American mink, Mustela vison diet and predation on waterfowl in the Slonsk Reserve, western Poland. Folia Zoologica 52(3): 225-238.

BirdLife International. 2015. European Red List of Birds. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.

Brazil, M. 2009. Birds of East Asia: eastern China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, eastern Russia. Christopher Helm, London.

Brown, L.H., Urban, E.K. and Newman, K. 1982. The Birds of Africa, Volume I. Academic Press, London.

Carboneras, C. and Kirwan, G.M. 2014. Common Pochard (Aythya ferina). In: J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D.A. Christie and E. de Juana (eds), Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive, Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.

del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A.; Sargatal, J. 1992. Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 1: Ostrich to Ducks. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

Delany, S.; Scott, D. 2006. Waterbird population estimates. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands.

Evans, D.M. and Day, K.R. 2002. Hunting disturbance on a large shallow lake: the effectiveness of waterfowl refuges. Ibis 144(1): 2-8.

Fox, A. D.; Jones, T. A.; Singleton, R.; Agnew, A. D. Q. 1994. Food supply and the effects of recreational disturbance on the abundance and distribution of wintering Pochard on a gravel pit complex in southern Britain. Hydrobiologia 279/280: 253-262.

Giles, N. 1994. Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) habitat use and brood survival increases after fish removal from gravel pit lakes. Hydrobiologia 279/280: 387-392.

Gudmundsson, F. 1979. The past status and exploitation of the Myvatn waterfowl populations. Oikos 32(1-2): 232-249.

IUCN. 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2015-4. Available at: (Accessed: 19 November 2015).

Johnsgard, P.A. 1978. Ducks, geese and swans of the World. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln and London.

Kear, J. 2005. Ducks, geese and swans volume 2: species accounts (Cairina to Mergus). Oxford University Press, Oxford, U.K.

Madge, S. and Burn, H. 1988. Wildfowl. Christopher Helm, London.

Marsden, S. J. 2000. Impact of Disturbance on Waterfowl Wintering in a UK Dockland Redevelopment Area. Environmental Management 26(2): 207-213.

Marsden, S. J.; Bellamy, G. S. 2000. Microhabitat characteristics of feeding sites used by diving duck Aythya wintering on the grossly polluted Manchester Ship Canal, UK. Environmental Conservation 27(3): 278-283.

Mateo, R., Belliure, J., Dolz, J.C., Aguilar-Serrano, J.M. and Guitart, R. 1998. High prevalences of lead poisoning in wintering waterfowl in Spain. Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 35: 342-347.

Melville, D. S.; Shortridge, K. F. 2006. Migratory waterbirds and avian influenza in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway with particular reference to the 2003-2004 H5N1 outbreak. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 432-438. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Nagy, S., Flink, S. and Langendoen, T. 2014. Waterbird trends 1988-2012: Results of trend analyses of data from the International Waterbird Census in the African-Eurasian Flyway. Wetlands International, Ede.

Quan, R. C.; Wen, W.; Yang, X. 2002. Effects of human activities on migratory waterbirds at Lashihai Lake, China. Biological Conservation 108: 273-279.

Scott, D. A.; Rose, P. M. 1996. Atlas of Anatidae populations in Africa and western Eurasia. Wetlands International, Wageningen, Netherlands.

Snow, D.W. and Perrins, C.M. 1998. The Birds of the Western Palearctic, Volume 1: Non-Passerines. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Sorrenti, M., Carnacina, L., Radice, D. and Costato, A. 2006. Duck harvest in the Po delta, Italy. In: G. Boere, C. Galbraith and D. Stroud (eds), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 864-865. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, U.K.

Wetlands International. 2012. Waterbird Population Estimates: 5th Edition.

Further web sources of information
Detailed regional assessment and species account from the European Red List of Birds (BirdLife International, 2015)

Detailed species account from Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status (BirdLife International 2004)

Explore HBW Alive for further information on this species

Search for photos and videos, and hear sounds of this species from the Internet Bird Collection

Text account compilers
Ashpole, J, Burfield, I., Butchart, S., Ekstrom, J., Malpas, L., Pople, R., Wheatley, H. & Wright, L

Choudhury, A., Nagy, S., Langendoen, T., Heim, W., Baccetti, N., Petkov, N., Vogrin, M., Sorrenti, M., Virkkala, R., Raudonikis, L., Singh, R.K.B., Vyas, V., Hearn, R., Balachandran, S., Caizergues, A., Kasambe, R., Ming, M., Ushiyama, K., Solovyeva, D., Chowdhury, S., Moores, N. & Gombobaatar, S.

IUCN Red List evaluators
Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2015) Species factsheet: Aythya ferina. Downloaded from on 30/11/2015. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2015) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 30/11/2015.

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.

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife

To contribute to discussions on the evaluation of the IUCN Red List status of Globally Threatened Birds, please visit BirdLife's Globally Threatened Bird Forums.

Additional resources for this species

ARKive species - Common pochard (Aythya ferina) 0

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Vulnerable
Family Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, Swans)
Species name author (Linnaeus, 1758)
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 11,900,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species
- 2015 European Red List assessment