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Tufted Duck: Unveiling the Quack-Tastic Facts About This Diving Breed

Tufted duck

Have you spotted any Tufted duck while strolling around lakes, wetlands, or reservoirs?

This comical diving duck with an iconic tuft on its head is eye-magnetizing, not just because of its hairdo but also due to its hypnotizing bright yellow eyes.

Despite being smaller than Mallard ducks and being less common and underrated in North America, this diving waterfowl is thriving in Eurasia and is slowly making waves across the world.

Do you want to know more about this breed?

If yes, you came to the right place.

In this article, we’ll unveil the:

  • Origin and distinctive characteristics
  • Nesting behavior and natural habitat
  • Diet and migration patterns of Tufted ducks

And if you do find one in your area and decide to keep them and raise them, we also have care tips for you to ensure they’ll grow happily and healthily.

Tufted duck, also known as Aythya fuligula is a unique breed with interesting features. But first, take a look at this quick overview of the breed.

Tufted Duck Overview

Scientific Name:  Anythya fuligula
Common Name:  Tufted Duck, Tufted Driver, Tufted Scaup, Black Poker
Origin: Eurasia
Lifespan:  4-5 years
Average Size:  15-19 inches
Average Weight:  27-31 ounces
Wingspan:  30-35 inches

Mating ducks in the water

Tufted Duck’s Origin and History

Since Tufted ducks aren’t native to North America, you may be wondering about their origin if you’ve come across some of them.

So, where did the Tufted duck come from?

Well, this breed is widely spread across Europe and Asia.

And they migrate to different parts of the world.

We’ll discuss more about their migration habits and habitat. But first, let’s discuss the characteristics that set Tufted ducks apart from other breeds.

Distinguishing Characteristics of the Tufted Duck

This waterfowl is generally larger than Teal but a bit smaller than the popular Mallards.

It’s sometimes confused with other ring-necked ducks and lesser and greater scaups. But what sets them apart from other waterfowl?

Well, among these three species, tufted ducks are the only ones with a long head tuft.

Hence, the name Tufted ducks.

Male and female Tufted ducks have different characteristics, but they share some similarities.

Both genders feature bright golden-yellow eyes paired with broad blue-gray bills, black nails and tips, gray-black legs, webbed feet, and of course, the tuft.

But what are the differences between male and female Tufted ducks?

Male Tufted Duck

Flying male tufted duckMales are smaller than other breeds but larger than females because they usually weigh around 600 to 1020 grams (or 1lb 5oz – 2lb 4oz).

The males boast a unique hanging crest and glossy plumage with white flanks and abdomen, which creates a beautiful and captivating contrast.

When the sun strikes their plumage, faint purple or green iridescence appears on their head and neck.

Their tuft is longer than the females, so they’re more noticeable and distinguishable.

However, their backs look grayish in bright light.

Female Tufted Duck

Female tufted duckJust like other waterfowl, female Tufted ducks are smaller than their male counterparts. Females’ weight ranges from 560 to 930 grams (or 1lb 4oz – 2lb 1oz).

They have shorter tuft, and they don’t have the white sides that are visible and prominent in males.

Instead, they feature soft brown sides with dark brown upperparts and bold rusty wash or minimal blurred barring on their flanks.

Female Tufted ducks also have whitish undertail coverts with gray streaking and small white patches at their bills’ base, although it’s not always noticeable.

Aside from their different plumage, females have shorter crests than male Tufted ducks, so it should be easy to tell them apart.

Tufted Duck’s Temperament and Personality

In this section, we’ll talk about how Tufted ducks interact with their fellow waterfowl and their eggs and baby ducklings.


This duck breed excels in diving. In fact, they can dive as deep as 50 feet below the water’s surface while foraging. That also explains why they like to live in deep waters.

They can be sociable after the breeding season and may gather in large flocks of mixed diving ducks, including scaups and ring-necked ducks.

But they quickly emerge from the water when frightened, momentarily running along the surface to gain speed for an abrupt liftoff.

Nesting Behavior

Like other ducks, they’re monogamous, and males court female Tufted ducks through head bobbing and synchronized bill dipping.

However, males are not hands-on in raising their offspring; it’s a job most females have to do.

They create a nest for their young by building a shallow scrape or ow platform nest, then finish it off with a lining.

Most nests can be found under a bush or dense grass because these waterfowl hide it through camouflage.

These ducks frequently cross with other kinds of birds, such as ring-necked ducks, lesser scaups, and bigger scaups.

But records also show that they also hybridize with common pochards and mallards, although it’s less frequent.

Female tufted duck with tufted ducklings

Caring for Eggs and Tufted Ducklings

Aythya fuligula produces oval-shaped eggs with colors ranging from light yellow to pale brown or green tones.

Each brood is composed of 7 to 12 eggs, and the female Tufted ducks incubate their eggs for 25 to 29 days.

After hatching, the tiny Tufted duckling can instantly leave its nest to explore and forage for food within 48 hours.

Both male and female Tufted ducks take on the responsibility of guiding and protecting their Tufted ducklings.

So the young ones need to stay with their parents for up to 110 days until they’re mature enough to stand on their own.

Ducklings can try out flying at 50 to 55 days old though, but they still need to depend on their parents for a while.

Noise and Calls

These birds are generally quiet, but they also have growling calls, low whistles, and croaking quacks in their vocal repertoire that help them communicate with one another.

But how widespread are Tufted ducks? We’ll dig into that below.

Tufted ducks' habitat

Population and Habitat of the Tufted Duck

Since Tufted ducks are diving ducks, they like to be in deeper bodies of water like lakes, slow-moving rivers, and reservoirs, whether natural or artificial.

But you can also find them in city parks with habitable ponds or lakes.

They’re comfortable being out in the water, too, and they like to spend time on land and floating vegetation.

But they prefer living near the water’s edge when nesting.

Even though this breed favors freshwater habitats, they’re often spotted in coastal bays, estuaries, and brackish marshes during winter.

Aythya fuligula can be seen in Western Europe, including the United Kingdom, throughout the year, but they’re also abundant on the Italian coast and the Caspian Sea.

But during their breeding season, which usually falls in summer, they can reach Iceland, southern Europe, and Russia, trying to find a perfect spot.

But in winter, they migrate to southern Europe, northern Africa, or as far as the Middle East, India, eastern China, and Japan.

They’re not prevalent in North America, but some of them can reach western Alaska every year.

Migrant sightings may be reported around the northern coasts of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans during winter and, on occasion, the Great Lakes region.

Tufted Duck’s Conservation Status and Threats

According to IUCN or the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Tufted ducks’ population trend is stable.

They’re actually expanding in some areas, thanks to sand and gravel quarries that create more reservoirs that serve as the perfect habitat for this breed.

That’s why it’s listed as of “least concern” in their red list.

However, they’re prone to oil and other chemical pollution, and they can be easily infected with avian influenza.

And in countries like Denmark, Iran, and Italy, they’re used as game species for regulated hunting.

But currently, there’s still plenty of them, and they’re of least concern.

Tufted Ducks’ Migration Pattern

Although tufted ducks migrate to the north and east during the summer breeding season, as well as further south during the winter, they do occupy a central core of their territory in western Europe.

Swimming male tufted duck

Tufted Ducks’ Diet

Their diet may vary depending on what’s abundant in every season and what’s available in the waters they live in.

But tufted ducks are omnivorous like other duck breeds, so they can eat various foods.

Since they’re great divers, they usually dive below the water’s surface to search for food like aquatic plants, mollusks, seeds, grains, insects, crustaceans, and amphibians.

But how about their young ones? What do Tufted ducklings eat?

Their ducklings eat insects and seeds, but they can feed themselves and dive on their own to look for their own food when they’re mature enough to leave their nest.

Are you planning to add a Tufted duck to your waterfowl collection? If you do, where can you find them?

Where to Find Tufted Duck For Sale?

Tufted ducks are easy to find in their range, but most especially during migration, when they travel together in large flocks. You can also spot them in urban or suburban parks occasionally.

However, if you’re far from their usual habitat or they’re not widely available in your country, you may try to visit the following websites that offer Tufted ducks for sale:

Aythya fuligula prices range from £95 to 100 but may fluctuate and vary depending on the location. So, if you really want to have them or add them to your collection, you’ll have to invest a considerable amount.

If you’re lucky enough to get and keep a Tufted duck, the next question would be how to raise them.

But don’t worry about a thing because we’ve got you covered.

We’ll dive into that below.

How to Raise a Tufted Duck

Here are some tips on how to raise Aythya fuligula and ensure they live happily and thrive.

1. Provide Deep Water and Diverse Ecosystem

Tuft ducks can get attracted to ecosystems that are similar to their natural habitats and provide adequate food sources.

So you should ensure that you have accessible deep water sources like ponds and lakes with snails, crustaceans, and weeds so they can forage in it.

It also allows them to keep themselves hydrated and bathe themselves during hot seasons.

If you don’t have one, you may need to build a duck pond.

2. Prepare Lots of Food

Like any other duck, the Tufted breed thrives in an environment where there’s enough food.

If you can’t replicate their usual habitat and provide the foods they used to eat, you may need to get duck feed to support their growth and nutritional needs.

But if you can provide grains, seeds, worms, crustaceans, and other comfort food, that’s even better!

3. Set up a Pen and Fence

Since Tufted ducks are migratory birds, you can expect that they’re excellent flyers.

So if you want to keep and raise them, you’ll have to set up a fence that will prevent them from escaping.

We suggest building an enclosed pen that can protect them from harsh weather and high fences that will prevent them from flying out.

Fences can also help keep the predators out and protect your waterfowl.

4. Reward Them With Treats

Aside from providing them with nutritious food and allowing them to forage, it’d also help if you could give your waterfowl some healthy treats like mealworms, scrambled eggs, slugs, or crickets.

It can surely delight your waterfowl and help you establish a connection with them more quickly.

5. Provide Bedding

If possible, prepare dry beddings for your waterfowl to ensure they can live and rest comfortably.

You can use either pine shavings or straws to keep your birds warm throughout winter and prevent them from laying on the ground.

FAQs About Tufted Duck

What are the characteristics of a Tufted Duck?

Aythya fuligula’s sexual dimorphism is evident because females are usually chocolate brown in color while males have black plumage with white flanks and long tuft at the back of their heads.

What is the habitat of the Tufted Duck?

Tufted ducks’ preferred breeding habitat is marshes and lakes with lots of vegetation where they can hide their nests.

But you can also find them on coastal lagoons, shorelines, and ponds.

Is the Tufted Duck rare?

This breed is not endangered, and its population trend is stable, so technically, it’s not a rare breed. However, Tufted ducks aren’t common or popular in North America.

What does a tufted duck eat?

Tufted ducks mainly feed on waterweed, seeds, and water insects. But they can also eat grains, mollusks, crustaceans, and amphibians.

Aythya fuligula

Final Thoughts on Tufted Duck

Tufted ducks are protected in the UK under the country’s Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Their lifespan ranges from 4 to 5 years, but if taken care of properly, they can live up to 24 years.

Although their population is stable, some of them are losing their natural habitat due to agricultural activities and invasive plants.

But you can help preserve this breed by working with waterfowl conservation groups like Ducks Unlimited.

Is Tufted duck too plain for you? Do you prefer a unique duck with vibrant plumage?

If you want to discover more colorful waterfowl breeds, check out the next feature below.

READ NEXT: Mandarin Duck Breed Profile

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