The Tufted Duck is a medium-sized diving duck. The adult male is all black except for white flanks and a blue-grey bill. It has an obvious head tuft that gives the species its name. The adult female is brown with paler flanks, and is more easily confused with other diving ducks.
Male Tufted Ducks closely resemble ring-necked ducks. The main difference is the tuft of feathers that falls behind the head. Its sides are also white rather than gray while the bill lacks a white margin at the base and in flight a white stripe at the back of the inner wing is displayed. The female Tufted Duck is similar in appearance to the female Scaup, but is black-brown with a smaller patch of white at the base of the bill. At the back of the head, there is a small protuberance of feathers, which is much smaller than the male's. Their average body length is 16-18in (40.6-45.7cm) and they weigh about 1.6lb (750g).
The breeding habitat of the Tufted Duck is close to marshes and lakes with plenty of vegetation to conceal their nest. They are also found on coastal lagoons, the seashore, and sheltered ponds. The Tufted Duck breeds widely throughout temperate and northern Eurasia. It occasionally can be found as a winter visitor along both coasts of the United States and Canada. These ducks are migratory in most of their range, and winter in the milder south and west of Europe, southern Asia and all year in most of the United Kingdom. They will form large flocks on open water in winter.
The meat of the Tufted Duck is mild in flavor and very tasty.
Tufted Ducks feed mainly by diving, but they do also dabble. They eat molluscs, aquatic insects and some plants. Larger fish or vegetable matter may be brought to the surface to eat while insects and duckweed floating on the surface are also scooped up. They do occasionally feed at night.
Tufted Ducks prefer nesting in colonies although it is not uncommon to find solitary nests. The nest is built either under dense vegetation or amongst reed beds where the water provides further protection. Aggressive terns may also drive predators away from the nests of the ducks. Their breeding season extends between May – August. Females lay 8-10 eggs that she incubates for 23 - 25 days. The ducklings dive almost soon after they are born. The young fledge at 7weeks of age.
The Tufted Duck is notorious for its raucous alarm calls when predators are spotted.During courtship males produce a musical whistling call.
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