Tufted Duck – 1994

Aythya fuligula – HWYADEN GOPOGWinter visitor and passage migrant.

Mathew (1894) described the Tufted Duck as a common winter visitor, being occasionally met with on inland ponds but in “great numbers diving in the shallows of Goodwick Bay”. Goodwick Bay would appear not to be typical habitat for Tufted Ducks and it may be that Mathew encountered them there during a cold spell, when they had been temporarily frozen off fresh waters. Bertram Lloyd did not see any on winter visits during 1925-1937, nor do they normally occur there nowadays. Lockley et al. (1949) considered Orielton to be the principal locality for the species with up to 150 recorded.

Although Mathew commented that they “may occasionally remain to breed” Lockley et al. found no evidence of breeding but did note that a pair once summered at Orielton. Lloyd found a summering male at Penally and males have summered at Bosherston Pools in recent years. The only possible evidence of breeding has been of a pair behaving as if with young in cover seen at Treginnis in June 1988. The young hatched near Dale in 1992 were the result of union between a wild bird and a captive one.

Small numbers pass Strumble Head each year between August and October but do not build up on Pembrokeshire waters until November, peaking in January and February. They are thinly distributed across fresh waters of the county, such as Pen Beri and Hasguard Hall reservoirs. In the mainly mild winters that prevail in Pembrokeshire up to ten birds were seen at each locality, but with up to 26 at Pembroke Mill Pond, their principal location. Larger gatherings occur during cold spells when up to 40 have been seen at Bicton, 58 at Pembroke Mill Pond, 60 at Bosherston Pools and 105 at Llysyfran reservoir. Numbers also increase on the smaller waters at such times, for example up to 22 at Jordanston Pools, 28 at Heathfield gravel pits and 33 at Anchor Hoetan. Most have departed by the end of April, though May records are not uncommon.

From 1935 to 1946 186 Tufted Ducks were ringed at the Orielton Decoy. Recoveries show that some originated from Russian breeding grounds as far east as the Pechora River, and that some passed through the Baltic states and Holland from September to December, either to return to winter quarters in Pembrokeshire or else to pause here before continuing to Ireland and France.

Donovan J.W. & Rees G.H, 1994, Birds of Pembrokeshire

More about the Tufted Duck in Pembrokeshire