Saturday 19 April 2014

Ferruginous Duck x Tufted Duck

Ferruginous Duck x Tufted Duck hybrid (with Tufted Duck), Earlswood Lakes (Warwickshire, UK), 1st March 2016 - copyright John Oates
(photo ID: 2738)

All of the examples of this hybrid that I have seen, either in life or in photos, have been reasonably similar to each other.  As noted at the bottom of this page, there may be another type appearing more like Ferruginous Duck, and photos of such a bird would be very welcome.  The majority seem to show distinct mahogany tones on the breast (especially at the sides) and on the crown, though these tones can be hard to detect in some light conditions.  The flanks are sullied buffy-grey showing a narrow pale upper border below the darker wings and scapulars.  They show a short tuft, appearing more lumpy and less wispy than on a Tufted Duck.  John's photos of the first bird featured here show a green head sheen, and this has been visible on some of mine too.  At first this may seem unexpected given that Tufted Duck typically shows a purply head sheen (though can look green) but head sheen is one of those features that is not necessarily matching either parent or intermediate, and Ring-necked Duck x Tufted Ducks also seem to show a green head sheen.

Ferruginous Duck x Tufted Duck hybrid (same bird as in photo ID 2738 above), Earlswood Lakes (Warwickshire, UK), 1st March 2016 - copyright John Oates
(photo IDs: 2739-2740)

Ferruginous Duck x Tufted Duck hybrid, Wroxham Broad (Norfolk, UK), 24th December 2011 - copyright Dave Appleton
(photo IDs: 0448-0450)

Ferruginous Duck x Tufted Duck hybrid (presumably the same bird as in photo IDs 0448-0450 above), Wroxham Broad (Norfolk, UK), 12th November 2011 - copyright Dave Appleton
(photo IDs: 0451-0452)

The next bird was at a site that attracts large numbers of ducks that have been released nearby for shooting. Although wild birds appear here too, a disproportionate number of hybrids have been encountered at the site and many of these are presumably among those that have been released.  The origin of this bird is unknown but in view of the circumstances should not be assumed to be of wild origin.

Ferruginous Duck x Tufted Duck hybrid, Leathes Ham, Lowestoft (Suffolk, UK), 24th December 2011 - copyright Dave Appleton
(photo IDs: 0453-0456)

The next birds are also of uncertain, but dubious, provenance. There were three of them on a small pond adjacent to a restaurant and the only other ducks on the pond were two Shelduck x Wood Duck hybrids and another unidentified dabbling duck hybrid, the parents of which were not species naturally occurring in the UK. Whether they belong there, escaped from a nearby collection or were released there deliberately is not known, at least not by me.

The drake resembled the birds shown above and it was not immediately clear if the two female birds with it were hybrids as well or if they were pure Tufted Ducks.  The overall body colouration was rather warm and reddish but not so much so that they couldn't be pure Tufted Ducks. However the photos confirm that the tuft structure was similar to that of the drake hybrids and one bird at least shows pure white under the tail. Perhaps their identification should not be regarded as proven, but I'm reasonably sure they were all hybrids.

Ferruginous Duck x Tufted Duck hybrids (male and 2 presumed female hybrids), River House Restaurant, Stirling (Stirlingshire, UK), 29th December 2013 - copyright Dave Appleton
(photo IDs: 0457-0466)

Although the next bird was close to a wildfowl collection it wasn't, and had never been, part of that collection and may therefore be a bird hatched in the wild.

Ferruginous Duck x Tufted Duck hybrid, Blakeney (Norfolk, UK), 16th May 2016 - copyright Dave Appleton
(photo IDs: 2838-2839)

The next two drakes were associating closely with one another and more loosely with a small flock of Tufted Ducks.

Ferruginous Duck x Tufted Duck hybrid, Blakeney (Norfolk, UK), 14th February 2017 - copyright Dave Appleton
(photo IDs: 3038-3043)

Joern Lehmhus has written about Ferruginous Duck x Tufted Duck hybrids in the German magazine Aves.  The text is in German but non-German speakers may still be interested as it's accompanied by a number of photos of Ferruginous Duck x Tufted Duck hybrids.  You can access the PDF of Aves 3 (2012) - the article starts on page 32 with section 4 on this hybrid beginning at page 37 - the four photos captioned "Reiherente x Moorente" are Ferruginous Duck x Tufted Duck hybrids.

All of the males of this hybrid that we have seen here so far have had pale browish flanks and a dark head with reddish colour pretty much restricted to the crown.  The new Helm guide "Wildfowl of Europe, Asia and North America" by S├ębastien Reeber (2015) shows a second more Ferruginous Duck-like type with darker reddier brown flanks (though still contrastingly paler than the breast and upperparts) and a fully reddish-brown head.

Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca
Tufted Duck Aythya fuligula


  1. Interesting how close the plumage (if you ignore the "tuft") is of some of these to Baer's Pochard. A male Ferruginous x Scaup could probably present a real confusion risk with the latter...

  2. I see what you mean. Mind you, I suspect they look a bit more Baer's-like in my poor photos than they do in life. I think the males are most easily overlooked as immature (or eclipse) male Tufted Ducks, until you get them in nice light and see the colours on the crown etc.