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Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca

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.

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.
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.

38-42 cm. Dark chestnut coloured diving duck. Both sexes uniform chestnut, slightly darker on back with white belly and undertail; male with distinctive pale iris. Juvenile similar but belly and undertail grey-buff. In flight a broad white wingbar extends onto outer primaries. Similar spp. Easily distinguished from other Aythya ducks by white undertail when sitting and extensive wingbar in flight. Voice In spring female noisy in flight with err, err... call and male with a short chuk call. Hints Prefers shallower and more vegetated areas than other Aythya species and seldom sits out on open water. Outside of main range search flocks of other diving ducks.

Distribution and population
Aythya nyroca breeds principally in south-western Asia (east to China and south to Pakistan and India), central and eastern Europe, and north Africa (Callaghan 1999; Vinicombe 2000). The wintering range overlaps with the breeding range and extends to the Middle East, north-east and West Africa (mainly Mali and Nigeria [Vinicombe 2000]) and South-East Asia. Four main populations are recognised and migration occurs from early September to mid-October, whilst breeding grounds are re-occupied from mid-March to early May (Vinicombe 2000). The main part of the population occurs in Asia, where there is much suitable habitat and it remains common, although quantitative data are lacking. Given that this species's range may fluctuate considerably from year to year, owing to changing water levels, it is unclear how much one-off high counts from Asian countries represent just one mobile population (Petkov et al. 2003). The current global population is estimated at c.163,000-257,000 individuals. An estimate for North Africa and Asia of 10,000 individuals in 1991 (Perennou et al. 1994) appears too low. About 600 pairs breed in the El Kala National Park, Algeria (Vinicombe 2000), and there have been recent reports of breeding in Aswan, Egypt (Hoek et al. 2010). In Europe the breeding population is estimated at 12,000-18,000 pairs with the largest population in Romania (5,500-6,500 breeding pairs, concentrated in the Danube Delta) (BirdLife International 2004; O. Hatzofe in litt. 2005). Significant populations (between 1,000 and 5,000 pairs) are also found in Croatia, Azerbaijan, and possibly Turkey, whilst smaller populations (c.500-1,000 pairs) are found in Russia, Hungary, Serbia and possibly Ukraine (BirdLife International 2004; O. Hatzofe in litt. 2005; Dordevic et al. 2009). Populations in most European countries are showing signs of continuing large-scale declines. Sporadic breeding and/or wintering occurs in several western European countries. In Asia recent surveys have found high numbers, perhaps into the tens of thousands, in Inner Mongolia (Xing Lianlian pers. comm. 1998) (although the accuracy of these counts is unclear, and may refer to non-breeding birds from other areas), 6,000-7,000 breeding pairs in Kazakhstan (S. Yerokhov verbally per N. Petkov in litt. 2005) (although others have suggested it is uncommon [C. Inskipp in litt. 2005; A. A. Khan in litt. 2006]) and it is apparently common on the Tibetan Plateau, China (Scott 1993), and in winter in India, Bangladesh (70,000 birds counted at one group of four sites) (R. Halder in litt. 2002), Myanmar and Thailand. Other large winter counts have been made in Azerbaijan (9,000 birds), Turkmenistan (21,000 birds) (Carboneras 1992a) and Uzbekistan (7,000 birds [Kashkarov and Mukhina 1997], but recently less [S. Yerokhov verbally per N. Petkov in litt. 2005]). Small numbers occur on passage in Lebanon and Qatar and also in winter in Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. The species has declined markedly in Europe where there have been declines of more than 20% in eight European countries (BirdLife International 2004; O. Hatzofe in litt. 2005). The status of the European population (12,000-18,000 pairs, occupying 25-49% of the global breeding range) was recently reassessed (BirdLife International 2004; O. Hatzofe in litt. 2005). Following a large decline in Europe during 1970-1990 (Unpublished expert communications to S. Sklyarenko 2005), the species continued to decline during 1990-2000, when up to 45% of birds appear to have been lost (particularly in south-east Europe). The European population is believed to have declined overall by >30% (BirdLife International 2004; O. Hatzofe in litt. 2005). There is also some evidence for declines in the number of birds in India (T. Katzner in litt. 2005; A. W. Tordoff in litt. 2005), Kazakhstan (Berezovikov and Samusev 1998; S. Subramanya in litt. 2006) (although other evidence suggests that this population is actually stable [S. Yerokhov verbally per N. Petkov in litt. 2005]), Kyrgyzstan (C. Inskipp in litt. 2005), Pakistan (N. Petkov in litt. 2005), Uzbekistan (Kashkarov and Mukhina 1997; S. Subramanya in litt. 2006) (but this population may have now stabilised [S. Yerokhov verbally per N. Petkov in litt. 2005]) and Vietnam (Tucker and Heath 1994), and to a minor degree in Nepal (C. Inskipp in litt. 2005) (but possibly stable there [H. S. Baral in litt. 2005]). Winter counts from Israel suggest that population to be generally stable in recent years (T. Heinicke in litt. 2005). In Ukraine, numbers have fallen from an estimated 65,000 in the late 1960s (Vinicombe 2000) to an estimated 1,500 pairs, whilst declines have also been recorded in Moldova, Albania (from 100-300 pairs to a recent estimate of 0-3 pairs [N. Petkov in litt. 2003]), Poland, Hungary, and Spain (from c.500 pairs 100 years ago to five pairs in recent years) (Vinicombe 2000). However, populations remain stable in a number of other countries and slight local increases may have occurred in parts of Russia and Ukraine since hunting has diminished due to the species's rarity (Vinicombe 2000). This species's range has fluctuated considerably over the last c.150 years, although the overall trend has been towards a declining population and distribution. Owing to significant local declines it is classified as Vulnerable in Europe. Evidence of declines in the larger Asian populations is sparse, and sometimes contradictory, and so there is insufficient evidence at present to warrant uplisting to Vulnerable globally.

Population justification
The population is estimated to number 2,400-2,600 in North Africa; 36,000-54,000 in eastern Europe; 25,000-100,000 in south-west Asia and north-east Africa (based on counts in the 1990s of 9,000 in Azerbaijan, 21,000 in Turkmenistan and 7,000 in Uzbekistan), and over 100,000 in the rest of Asia (based on tens of thousands breeding in Inner Mongolia (Xing Lianlian in litt. 1998), common occurrence on the Tibetan Plateau, and upwards of 90,000 being present on the hoars of north-east Bangladesh in January 2002).

Trend justification
This species's range has fluctuated considerably over the last c.150 years as it has modified its distribution. However, most figures suggest widespread declines. Owing to significant local declines it is classified as Vulnerable in Europe. Evidence of declines in the larger Asian populations is sparse, and sometimes contradictory. The overall population is estimated to be declining at a moderate rate.

Behaviour This species is chiefly migratory (del Hoyo et al. 1992; Scott and Rose 1996), although little is known about its migratory routes (Scott and Rose 1996) and some individuals in southern populations may remain on the breeding grounds all year (Kear 2005b). It breeds from April or May (del Hoyo et al. 1992) until late June (Madge and Burn 1988) in single pairs or loose groups (del Hoyo et al. 1992). Adults undertake a wing moulting period on the breeding grounds between July and August (Robinson and Hughes 2006) when large flocks of moulting individuals may gather (Robinson and Hughes 2006) (no moult migration is recorded however [Scott and Rose 1996]). Departure from the breeding grounds begins in mid- to late-August (N. Petkov in litt. 2008) and peaks in October (Kear 2005b), with the species arriving in wintering areas from late October (Scott and Rose 1996). The return migration to the breeding grounds begins in early March (Scott and Rose 1996). Large gatherings of up to 100 individuals may occur prior to migration at the end of the post-breeding moult (Madge and Burn 1988) (July to August Scott and Rose (1996]), and on migration the species often remains in small groups of 20-50 individuals (N. Petkov in litt. 2008). Outside of the breeding season the species may be observed solitarily, in pairs or small loose groups (Madge and Burn 1988) of 2-5 individuals (Snow and Perrins 1998), and larger gatherings of 1,000-2,000 individuals are also recorded from wintering grounds in Niger and Chad (Petkov et al. 2003). Habitat It shows a strong preference for fresh standing water (Snow and Perrins 1998; N. Petkov in litt. 2008) and is very rarely found on flowing streams or rivers (N. Petkov in litt. 2008). It requires shallow water 30-100 cm deep close to littoral vegetation for feeeding (del Hoyo et al. 1992; Kear 2005b) and generally avoids large open areas (Kear 2005b; Scott and Rose 1996). In Bulgaria there is evidence that the species shows a preference for well-vegetated, comparatively shallow wetlands with well-structured mosaic vegetation and a diversity of microhabitats. It is also found on shallow mudflats, possibly as a result of more accessible and abundant invertebrate food sources in this habitat (Petkov in prep.) Breeding Shallow eutrophic freshwater pools and marshes with dense abundant submergent, floating, emergent and shoreline vegetation (e.g. reedbeds) are the major breeding habitats (del Hoyo et al. 1992; Kear 2005b; N. Petkov in litt. 2008). Shallow banks with flooded vegetation and mudflats are particularly used for foraging during this season. The species shows a particular preference for breeding, moulting and staging on large river deltas (Kear (2005b; Scott and Rose 1996; Robinson and Hughes 2006) and extensively managed fish ponds in Eastern Europe (Petkov 2006; Robinson and Hughes 2006). It is also less-commonly known to utilise brackish waters of estuaries, coastal lagoons, reservoirs, salt-pans, sewage farms, canals and drainage ditches during this season (Snow and Perrins 1998; Robinson and Hughes 2006; N. Petkov in litt. 2008). Non-breeding Its habitat requirements outside of the breeding season are similar to those of the breeding season (Kear 2005b), although it may also frequent large lakes, open lagoons, coastal marshes with reedbeds (del Hoyo et al. 1992; Kear 2005b; Scott and Rose 1996) and shallow coastal bays, straits and estuaries (Robinson and Hughes 2006). Diet Although the species is omnivorous, plant material such as seeds, roots and vegetative parts of aquatic plants (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (Potamogeton spp., Ceratophyllum spp., Scirpus spp., Carex spp. and macroalgae Chara spp. [Kear 2005b]) dominates its diet. Animal matter taken includes worms, molluscs (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (snails [Kear 2005b]), crustaceans, adult and larval insects (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (beetles, chironomids (Kear 2005b), dragonflies, waterbugs, caddisflies, flies [Brown et al. 1982]), amphibians (del Hoyo et al. 1992) (frogs, tadpoles and spawn [Kear 2005b; Brown et al. 1982]) and small fish (del Hoyo et al. 1992) up to 3 cm long (Brown et al. 1982). Breeding site The nest is a low platform (Snow and Perrins 1998) of reeds and other vegetation (del Hoyo et al. 1992) placed on the ground or on an islet or hummock in thick vegetation close to water (Kear 2005b; Johnsgard 1978). Alternatively nests may be placed over water on floating mats of vegetation (Johnsgard 1978) or in dense reedbeds along the shoreline (Kear 2005b; Johnsgard 1978).

The species is threatened by the degradation and destruction of well-vegetated shallow pools and other wetland habitats (Vinicombe 2000; del Hoyo et al. 1992; Kear 2005b; Robinson and Hughes 2006) (e.g. changes to the vegetation community, disruption of water regimes, siltation, and increased water turbidity [Robinson and Hughes 2006]) as a result of excessive drainage and water abstraction (Vinicombe 2000; Grishanov 2006; Robinson and Hughes 2006), peat extraction (Grishanov 2006), eutrophication (from inadequate sewage treatment and nutrient run-off [Robinson and Hughes 2006]), oil pollution (Grishanov 2006), dam and barrage construction, the building of infrastructure on flood-plains (Vinicombe 2000; Robinson and Hughes 2006) and river canalisation (Kear 2005b). Changing land management practices such as reed cutting and burning during the breeding season (Petkov 2006), over-grazing (Robinson and Hughes 2006) decreased grazing and mowing of wet meadows (Grishanov 2006), and abandonment (causing succession to scrub) or intensification (causing reversion to open water) of extensively managed fishponds (Vinicombe 2000; Kear 2005b; Petkov 2006; Robinson and Hughes 2006) also threatens the species. The introduction of non-native species has caused further habitat degradation. For example the stocking of lakes with and accidental introduction of Grass Carp Ctenopharyngodon idella has resulted in reductions in macrophyte biomass and corresponding reductions in invertebrate biomass (Kear 2005b; Robinson and Hughes 2006), and in Bulgaria an introduced shrub (Desert False Indigo Amorpha fruticosa) is changing the ecological character of wetlands (Robinson and Hughes 2006). Introduced predators such as the Wels Catfish Silurus glanis (Kazakhstan) that predate ducklings, and the Muskrat Ondatra zibethicus (Aral Sea region) have also caused population declines (Robinson and Hughes 2006). Increased drought due to global climate change may pose a threat to the species in part of its range (Vinicombe 2000; Robinson and Hughes 2006). Disturbance by fishing boats and anglers alongside fringe vegetation could cause abandonment of the breeding sites or disrupt the timing of breeding (N. Petkov in litt. 2008). Hunting is another serious threat to the species (Vinicombe 2000; del Hoyo et al. 1992; Robinson and Hughes 2006). Large numbers are shot on passage in the autumn (e.g. through the Volga delta) and on the wintering grounds (e.g. Sudan) (Kear 2005b; Balmaki and Barati 2006). Illegal and accidental hunting also persists in most European countries. Other lower-level threats include lead poisoning (from ingestion of discarded lead shot), fires in areas of reed thickets, peat bogs and woods (Grishanov 2006) and entanglement and drowning in fishing nets (Robinson and Hughes 2006) and hybridisation with native species (e.g. Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula and Common Pochard Aythya ferina in Switzerland [Leuzinger 2010]).

Conservation Actions Underway
The species is fully protected in Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Moldova, Netherlands, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Switzerland, and is protected from hunting in Austria, Belgium, Greece, Poland, Turkey and Ukraine. It is listed on Annex I of the European Union Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds, on Appendix III of the Bern Convention and on Appendices I and II of the Bonn Convention. The species has received little international conservation action, although a number of national initiatives have been developed recently, notably habitat management in Bulgaria and re-introduction schemes in Italy (Berezovikov and Samusev 1998). One of the highest priorities for this species is to establish systematic annual monitoring of Asian populations to more accurately assess trends. Such monitoring, if it provided evidence of continuing and significant declines across major Asian populations, could provide reason to uplist this species. An International Single Species Action Plan has been adopted by the Bern Convention, CMS and AEWA, which lays out a framework for conservation action throughout the specie's range (Robinson and Callaghan 2003). A restoration project for two key breeding sites on the Danube in Bulgaria is underway, funded by the World Bank (N. Petkov in litt. 2003). Conservation Actions Proposed
Promote the full legal protection of A. nyroca and its habitat through national and international legislation; promote environmentally friendly management of fishponds in Eastern Europe; promote adequate protection and management of key sites; promote conservation in the wider environment for the benefit of A. nyroca and its habitat; prevent mortality and disturbance caused by hunting; monitor the remaining population (particularly in Asia)and develop census techniques; investigate productivity and mortality; investigate ecology and limiting factors; investigate the impact of C. idella on the species and its habitat; develop and implement education programmes for the conservation of A. nyroca and its habitats.

Related state of the world's birds case studies

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.

Berezovikov, N. N.; Samusev, I. F. 1998. The Ferruginous Duck in the upper reaches of the Irtysh river. Casarca.

BirdLife International. 2004. Birds in Europe: population estimates, trends and conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Brown, L. H.; Urban, E. K.; Newman, K. 1982. The birds of Africa vol I. Academic Press, London.

Callaghan, D. A. 1999. European Union Species Action Plan: Ferruginous Duck (Althea nervosa). Council of Europe Publishing, Strasbourg.

Carboneras, C. 1992. Anatidae (Ducks, Geese, and Swans). In: del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J. (ed.), Handbook of the birds of the world, pp. 536-628. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain.

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.; Reyes, C.; Hubert, E.; Pihl, S.; Rees, E.; Haanstra, L.; van Strien, A. 1999. Results from the International Waterbird Census in the Western Palearctic and Southwest Asia 1995 and 1996. Wetlands International, Wageningen, Netherlands.

Dodman, T.; Sá, J. 2005. Waterbird monitoring in the Bijagós Archipelago, Guinea-Bissau. Wetlands International, Dakar.

Dordevic, I.; Vuvanovic, M.; Sciban, M.; Ruzic, M.; Radisic, D.; Rajkovic, D. 2009. Large autumn flocks of Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca on Durica Pond near Banatska Palanka. Ciconia 18: 185-186.

Gilissen, N.; Haanstra, L.; Delany, S.; Boere, G.; Hagemeijer, W. 2002. Numbers and distribution of wintering waterbirds in the Western Palearctic and Southwest Asia in 1997, 1998 and 1999: results from the international waterbird census. Wetlands International, Wageningen.

Grishanov, D. 2006. Conservation problems of migratory waterfowl and shorebirds and their habitats in the Kaliningrad region of Russia. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 356. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Hoek, D.; Ibrahim, H.; Noby, K. 2010. Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca, a new breeding species for Egypt in a temporary artificial wetland near Aswan. Sandgrouse 32(2): 163-166.

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

Kashkarov, D.; Mukhina, E. 1997. Status of the Ferruginous Duck in Uzbekistan. TWSG News 10: 21-24.

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

Leuzinger, H. 2010. Tauchentenhybriden mit Beteiligung der Moorente Aythya nyroca auf Kleingewässern bei Frauenfeld (Kanton Thurgau). Ornithologische Beobachter 107(1): 51-56.

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

Perennou, C. P.; Mundkur, T.; Scott, D. A. 1994. The Asian Waterfowl Census 1987-1991: distribution and status of Asian waterfowl. IWRB and AWB, Slimbridge and Kuala Lumpur.

Petkov, N. 2006. he importance of extensive fishponds for Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca conservation. In: Boere, G.; Galbraith, C., Stroud, D. (ed.), Waterbirds around the world, pp. 733-734. The Stationary Office, Edinburgh, UK.

Petkov, N. in prep. Wetland Characteristics of the breeding sites of the Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca and Common Pochard Aythya farina and its implication on their distribution and conservation status.

Petkov, N.; Hughes, B.; Gallo-Orsi, U. 2003. Ferruginous Duck: from research to conservation. Birdlife International-RSPB-TWSG, Sofia, Bulgaria.

Robinson, J. A.; Callaghan, D. A. 2003. The ferruginous duck as a Near Threatened species: problems, causes and solutions. In: Petkov, N.; Hughes, B.; Gallo-Orsi, U. (ed.), Ferruginous duck: from research to conservation, pp. 138-143. BirdLife International-BSBP-TWSG, Sofia.

Robinson, J. A.; Hughes, B. 2003. International Species Review: Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca.

Robinson, J. A.; Hughes, B. 2003. The global status and distribution of the ferruginous duck. In: Petkov, N.; Hughes, B.; Gallo-Orsi, U. (ed.), Ferruginous duck: from research to conservation, pp. 8-17. BirdLife International-BSBP-TWSG, Sofia.

Robinson, J. A.; Hughes, B. 2006. International single species action plan for the conservation of the Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca. CMS/AEWA, Bonn, Germany.

Scott, D. A. 1993. The Black-necked Cranes Grus nigricollis of Ruoergai Marshes, Sichuan, China. Bird Conservation International 3: 245-259.

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

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

Sultanov, E.; Agayeva, N. 2003. The current breeding status of Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca in Azerbaijan. Sandgrouse 25: 41-49.

Tucker, G. M.; Heath, M. F. 1994. Birds in Europe: their conservation status. BirdLife International, Cambridge, U.K.

Ul Haque, E. 2002. News from Bangladesh. Asian Waterbird Census Newsletter.

Vinicombe, K. E. 2000. Identification of Ferruginous Duck and its status in Britain and Ireland. British Birds 93: 4-21.

Further web sources of information
African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) International Action Plan 2006

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

Detailed species accounts from the Threatened birds of Asia: the BirdLife International Red Data Book (BirdLife International 2001).

International Action Plan

International Species Review

Text account compilers
Benstead, P., Capper, D., Derhé, M., Harding, M., Malpas, L., O'Brien, A., Peet, N., Pilgrim, J.

Baral, H., Braunlich, A., Brouwer, J., Halder, R., Hatzofe, O., Heinicke, T., Hughes, B., Inskipp, C., Isfendiyaroglu, S., Jayadevan, P., Katzner, T., Khan, A., Liu Dongping, .., Mischenko, A., Parveen, A., Petkov, N., Sklyarenko, S., Subramanya, S., Tord

IUCN Red List evaluators
Butchart, S., Symes, A.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2014) Species factsheet: Aythya nyroca. Downloaded from on 16/04/2014. Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2014) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 16/04/2014.

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

ARKive species - Ferruginous duck (Aythya nyroca)

Key facts
Current IUCN Red List category Near Threatened
Family Anatidae (Ducks, geese and swans)
Species name author (G
Population size mature individuals
Population trend Decreasing
Distribution size (breeding/resident) 1,200,000 km2
Country endemic? No
Links to further information
- Additional Information on this species