Ferruginous Duck

Ferruginous Duck – Aythya nyroca


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Anseriformmes
  • Family: Anatidae
  • Genre: Aythya
  • Species: Aythya nyroca

Caractere de identificare

It is a medium to small diving duck. High forehead, pointed beak. Long beak and neck. In the adult the underparts and the anterior part of the abdomen are white. The nesting male has deep brown plumage with a purple tinge, except for the undertail and white patch on the abdomen, and white eyes. The female has dark brown plumage with a reddish tinge on the crown and white underparts. The male in eclipse looks more like the female, but differs from her by its white eyes and reddish plumage. Juveniles resemble the adult female, with a dull brown body and duller white underparts and belly patch.


It nests in central and southern Europe and southwest Asia. In the cold season it can be found in southern Europe, Asia Minor, northwest and west Africa, the Near East and Southeast Asia. In Romania, it is a breeding species in Dobrogea (with large populations in the Danube Delta, Muntenia, Oltenia, Moldova, Banat and less frequently in Transylvania. Larger numbers are recorded in the passage. In recent years, flocks in the order of tens of individuals are regularly observed in winter. The population in the country is 2,628-10,464 breeding pairs. The wintering population is 24-74 individuals. Between 10,000 and 30,000 individuals may be observed during passage.

Living environment and biology of the species

In the nesting season it is found in the area of lowland lakes with abundant submerged vegetation, bordered by dense swathes of emergent marsh vegetation consisting of reeds, sedges and willows. It can also nest in fishponds or brackish water. Outside the nesting season it can be found on a wider range of wetlands. It prefers shallow water between 30-100 cm. Lives hidden on open water in dense reed beds.

Food is plant food, mainly seeds and vegetative parts of aquatic plants, but it can also eat molluscs, crustaceans, insects or even small fish. It obtains food either by diving or from the surface of the water, swimming with its beak or head at water level. It is a migratory species. It is less gregarious, rarer and more reclusive than the brown-headed duck. Pairs form in wintering quarters. It roosts very close to the water, on banks or on islets in dense marsh vegetation.

The nest is built mainly of reed fragments. The nesting period is from mid-April to mid-June. The clutch consists of 8-10 eggs and is incubated for 25 to 27 days. The chicks are nidifid.

Threats and conservation measures needed

The species is threatened by habitat loss and alteration, pollution and poor water management, poaching, mortality from fishing gear, anthropogenic disturbance.

It is recommended to respect restrictions in riparian and coastal areas, maintain wetland vegetation at an ecologically optimal level, manage waste and wastewater in areas of important habitat for the species, use selective and low toxicity agrochemicals, avoid the use of treated seeds in the vicinity of wetlands, encourage organic production, manage water levels in reservoirs in accordance with the ecological needs of the species, creation of islands to reduce the high risk of predation and increase breeding success in artificial or semi-natural wetlands, compliance with hunting legislation, control of poaching, reduction in the use of fishing nets to prevent accidental capture of birds, inventory of current and potential breeding areas, identification of migration, feeding and aggregation areas important for the conservation of the species, promotion of studies on the biology of the species.


  • Fântână Ciprian, Kovács Istvan, Benkő Zoltán, Daròczi Szilárd, Domșa Cristian, Veres-Szászka Judit (editors), 2022, Atlas of bird species of community interest in Romania, 2nd edition – Love birds, save nature!, Project financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Large Infrastructure Operational Programme 2014-2020, Ministry of Environment, Water and Forests – Biodiversity Directorate, scientific coordination Romanian Ornithological Society and Association for the Protection of Birds and Nature Milvus Group, produced by EXCLUS PROD SRL, p. 144.
    Svensson (text and maps), 2017, Guide to bird identification. Europe and the Mediterranean area, translation and adaptation into Romanian: Romanian Ornithological Society, Emanuel Ștefan Baltag, Sebastian Bugariu, Alida Barbu, p. 102.
    Radu Dimitrie, 1983, Small Ornithological Atlas – Birds of the World, Albatros Publishing, Bucharest, p. 135.
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