Aythya fuligula (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Anseriformes > Anatidae
Tufted Ducks, the male black-and-white and the female buff-brown, both with a characteristic 'tuft', can be seen diving on waterbodies across Britain & Ireland.
The UK has a small breeding population of around 18,000 pairs, but during the winter months these are joined by over 100,000 birds from as far away as central Russia. Wetland Bird Survey data show that Loch Leven and Loughs Neagh and Beg, in Scotland and Ireland respectively, regularly hold almost 10,000 Tufted Ducks each during the winter.
These characterful little ducks can also be found on lakes and ponds in the middle of our busiest towns and cities, where they can be observed diving for their favoured food of aquatic invertebrates and bivalve molluscs.
Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the Tufted Duck
Tufted Duck identification is usually straightforward. The following article may help when identifying Tufted Duck.
Dabbling ducks are so familiar, but there is also a group of common ducks that actively dive on freshwater for food. One or other is likely to be encountered on still or moving freshwater or even at sea so let this workshop help you to decide which diving duck you are seeing.
Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Tufted Duck, provided by xeno-canto contributors.
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Status and Trends
Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.
This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.
The colonisation of the UK by Tufted Ducks, which began in 1849, was aided by the spread of the zebra mussel Dreissena polymorpha, a non-native invasive species that had been introduced accidentally to Britain a few decades earlier. The long-term increase shown by WBS/WBBS, and the increase in range in Britain between the three atlas periods (Gibbons et al. 1993, Balmer et al. 2013) indicated that population expansion and in-filling of range were still occurring until at least the early 2000s, although WBS/WBBS data since around 2010 suggest a recent downturn, and the long-term data suggest breeding numbers are now similar to the mid-1970s. However, this recent trend contrasts with BBS data which show stability or perhaps an increase since 1994 in the UK as a whole. The species' winter trend in the UK since the 1960s, which includes many continental visitors, is also shallowly upward, but with little recent change (WeBS: Frost et al. 2020).
Moderate recent declines elsewhere in northern Europe resulted in a period on the amber list in the UK from 2009-15, but the species is now green listed once more (Eaton et al. 2015). In Finland, there was a highly significant difference between stable trends in oligotrophic wetlands and declines in eutrophic wetlands from 1986 to 2013 (WeBS: Lehikoinen et al. 2016).
|UK breeding population||No population change in UK (1995–2020)|
|UK winter population||-11% decrease (1995/96 to 2020/21)|
The Tufted Duck is widespread in much of Britain during winter.
Occupied 10-km squares in UK
|No. occupied in breeding season||1793|
|% occupied in breeding season||59|
|No. occupied in winter||1898|
|% occupied in winter||63|
European Distribution Map
Breeding Season Habitats
|Most frequent in||Lakes|
|Also common in||Ponds|
Increases in breeding range are most noticeable along the northern and western margins of the 1968–72 range in Britain, with much infilling elsewhere.
Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK
|% change in range in breeding season (1968–72 to 2008–11)||+29.9%|
|% change in range in winter (1981–84 to 2007–11)||+8%|
Tufted Ducks are present year-round.
Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.
Lifecycle and body size information about Tufted Duck, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.
|Number of Broods||1|
|Egg Size||59×41 mm Weight = 56 g (of which 8% is shell)|
View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report
|Maximum Age from Ringing||24 years 3 months 13 days (set in 2009)|
|Typical Lifespan||4 years with breeding typically at 1 year|
|Adult Survival||0.71±0.011 ( Female: 0.71±0.011)|
|Juvenile Survival||0.63 (in first year)|
|Wing Length||Adults||204.9±6.4 | Range 195–214mm, N=491|
|Juveniles||198.7±7.3 | Range 187-209mm, N=157|
|Males||206.8±5.3 | Range 199–215mm, N=349|
|Females||200.1±6.5 | Range 192–208mm, N=141|
|Body Weight||Adults||853±142 | Range 625–1100g, N=397|
|Juveniles||775±107.4514 | Range 590–940g, N=107|
|Males||888±128.6 | Range 685–1100g, N=284|
|Females||768±138.5 | Range 585–990g, N=112|
Feather measurements and photos on featherbase
|Field Codes||2-letter: TU | 5-letter code: TUFDU | Euring: 2030|
For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name
Interpretation and scientific publications about Tufted Duck from BTO scientists.
Causes of change
There is little good evidence available regarding the drivers of the breeding population increase in this species in the UK.
Further information on causes of change
No further information is available.
Information about conservation actions
Like other wildfowl, this species may benefit from the continuation of recent local management actions and wider policies which help to improve water quality and increase the availability of wetland habitats. More specifically, action to remove fish populations from gravel pits and other lakes may help improve breeding productivity for this species, by removing the competition from the fish which reduces the amount of invertebrate prey available to ducklings and adults (Giles 1994).
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