The tufted duck

Writer: Isaac Cohen  |  Editor: Zhang Chanwen  |  From: Shenzhen Daily

A tufted duck is seen spreading its wings at Shenzhen Bay in Nanshan District. Photos by Isaac Cohen

The tufted duck

The tufted duck (Aythya fuligula) is a captivating waterfowl species that visits our city in winter. With its striking appearance, unique behaviors, and ecological significance, this species has captured the attention of bird enthusiasts and researchers alike.


A tufted duck is seen at Shenzhen Bay in Nanshan District.

Measuring approximately 47 centimeters in length, the tufted duck is a medium-sized diving duck. It features a sleek, black body with white flanks, a distinctive tuft of feathers on its head, which is more prominent in males, and bright yellow eyes. Its blue-gray bill and grayish-blue legs further enhance its charm.


A group of tufted duck are seen at Shenzhen Bay in Nanshan District.

As migratory birds, tufted ducks exhibit varying patterns in different regions. In Europe and Asia, they breed in northern regions such asRussia and Scandinavia, and migrate southwards during winter to coastal areas and large inland water bodies.


These ducks are primarily diving herbivores, but they also consume small invertebrates. Their diet consists of aquatic plants, seeds, roots, and tubers. They can dive to considerable depths, submerging for short durations to forage for food. This behavior allows them to access a wide range of submerged vegetation and invertebrates.


A tufted duck is seen at Shenzhen Bay in Nanshan District.

Typically, tufted ducks breed from April to June. Once paired, the female constructs a nest on the ground near water, often hidden amid vegetation using feathers and plant material. Each clutch consists of up to 10 eggs, which the female incubates for approximately a month. The ducklings, known as precocial, acquire the ability to swim and find their own food shortly after birth. While the female provides parental care and protection, the male may either join the family later or search for another mate.


A tufted duck is seen at Shenzhen Bay in Nanshan District.

Tufted ducks play a crucial role in freshwater and coastal ecosystems. Their feeding habits contribute to the control of aquatic vegetation, preventing excessive growth and promoting healthier water bodies. By consuming seeds and vegetation, they also aid in seed dispersal, facilitating the growth of aquatic plants.


These ducks serve as an essential link in the food chain. Their presence supports various predators, including birds of prey, mammals, and larger fish species. Furthermore, through their migration patterns, tufted ducks connect diverse habitats, thereby serving as valuable indicators of environmental health and ecosystem changes.