BIRDS: Tufted Duck (Lacha bhadánach) Aythya fuligula
Common throughout Ireland year-round, though much more numerous in the winter with the arrival of migrants from Iceland and northern Europe, the Tufted Duck is really the only wild duck we have, apart from the Mallard which is comfortable visiting small ponds and parks. They can become quite tame around humans, and some will come to feed on bread where habitually offered, though our migrant visitors are warier.
Significantly smaller than the Mallard, at around 44cm, the Tufted Duck is mostly found on freshwater, though in winter some will occasionally also gather on the sea. Males are predominantly purplish-black overall, with white flanks and bellies, black-tipped blue bills and striking orange eyes. They have a long, drooping crest at the back of the crown, which gives the species its name. Females are much browner overall, though still with white bellies, and have a much shorter crest. Some individual females also have a small white patch on the face, around the base of the bill. Both sexes show a white stripe on each wing in flight.
Tufted Ducks feed primarily on insect larvae, small crustaceans and other aquatic invertebrates, though they will also eat plant material such as pondweed. They feed mainly by diving completely under the water to feed on the pond or lake bottoms, something that Mallards almost never do, and for this reason they tend to avoid areas of particularly deep water.
?More For more information on Ireland's birds, or to join BirdWatch Ireland and support their conservation work, please write to BirdWatch Ireland, PO Box 12, Greystones, Co Wicklow. Call 01 2819878, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.birdwatchireland.ie