Madagascar Pochard Duck
In late 2006, it was announced that the Madagascar pochard, last seen in 1991 and feared extinct, had been rediscovered by biologists from The Peregrine Fund. Durrell staff from Madagascar and Jersey were invited to make a rapid assessment of the tiny population and identify immediate threats.
Madagascar Pochard Ducks are diving birds that probably feed on aquatic plants and invertebrates in shallow water. Males have a distinctive white iris.
Male – The male Madagascar Pochard duck has a dark brown head and neck, white eyes, a grey beak, chestnut-brown mottled flanks, blackish-brown upper-parts and rump, white belly and under-tail coverts, white flight feathers with black tips and dark outer primary feathers, and grey legs and feet.
Female – The female has a duller brown plumage and does not have a white eye.
Eclipse – The male in eclipse plumage is similar to the female but retains the white eyes.
Size: – Typical Adult is 18-22 inches.
Food: – Invertebrates, aquatic plants and seeds.
Habitat: – Shallow freshwater lakes, marshes, and open water. It is endemic to Madagascar and found in the Lake Alaotra basin in the northern central plateau.
Breeding Season: – October to January.
Eggs: – 6-9 (buff-grey color).
Notes: – The Madagascar Pochard duck is an extremely rare medium size diving duck which is only found in Madagascar. Before 2006 it was believed to be extinct and it is now believed there are only about 20 individuals remaining. They were relatively common in the 1920s-1930s but declined rapidly in the 1940s-1950s after the introduction of numerous fish species. There are now plans to try and protect these ducks and their habitat.
The different types of wild ducks can be grouped into puddle, aka “dabbling” and diving ducks. The dabblers mostly feed in smaller bodies of shallow water or along shorelines, where they are able to tip their bodies forward to reach their food on the bottom. There are divers who feed in deeper water where they dive and pursue their quarry. Some of these birds, the Harlequin Duck for example, actually dives to the bottom of fast-flowing waters and feeds on life forms attached to rocks.