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  • Writer's pictureWildlife Friendly Otley

Tufted Duck - February 2022

During the winter, Otley has emptied of swifts and many of our warblers but on the water birds gather to keep safe and stay warm. The Tufted duck is a handsome duck, smaller than the familiar Mallard and well worth looking out for on your next walk along the river. The male has a black head, neck breast and back and is white on the sides. The female, like many bird species is plainer looking and is all brown. Both however have striking yellow eyes and a small crest on the back o their heads, their tufts.

The Tufted duck or Tufty as it is sometimes affectionately known, is our most common diving duck.

Ducks can be split into two broad groups: dabblers and divers. Dabbling ducks like Mallards feed predominantly at the surface, sometimes even grazing on land. Many dabblers can often be seen upending, with their heads underwater and their bums in the air; this is called dabbling. Whilst diving ducks as the name suggests feed mainly by diving underwater, using their strong feet (and sometimes their wings) to swim. Something they do share with Mallards is the male is much quieter than the female, making a soft ‘wit-oo’ sound, whilst the female make a harsh 'karrr' sounds.

Tufted ducks are omnivorous and feed on a wide variety of food including waterweed, plant seeds, water insects and mollusks. They are increasing their range throughout the UK, this may be due to rapid creation of their favoured habitat as open gravel extraction pits are allowed to flood and become lakes. These new lakes are quickly populated by the Tufty’s favourite food, freshwater muscles. As a small duck, they have a number of threats to overcome. Just a few of their predators include Herons, Foxes, birds of prey and even domestic dogs not kept in check.

During the breeding season, tufted ducks tend to be found close to marshes. The nest is made near the water, usually in a hollow on the ground, hidden in rushes or grassy tussocks. The nest itself is lined with grass, rushes and down. Like most ducks, the 'drake' (male) has nothing to do with the incubation of the eggs or raising the young. The 'hen' (female) has eight to eleven eggs in a brood; eggs are laid from about mid May. The young fledge after about 45 days.


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