White-headed Duck

White-headed duck

Name: White-headed duck

Distribution:
Europe, Asia and North Africa.

Distinctive features:
The male duck’s beak turns bright blue during the breeding season.
It has a strongly humped beak and a tail that can sit upright like a thorn.
Sometimes it positions its tail horizontally to the water, making it seem like it is missing or hidden.
An accomplished diver that can remain submerged underwater over long periods of time and can go as deep as 30m.




Locations in Bulgaria:
Some of the favourite locations of White-headed Duck in Bulgaria are the Vaya Lake and the waterways of the protected area Uzungeren, Mandra Lake near Burgas,  and Durankulak.  It visits the Black Sea coast occasionally and sometimes does so in small groups, usually between November -  March.

Habitats:
I
n the winter, this species likes saltwater pools that rarely freeze over. These are overgrown with various water plants and reeds. They can also be seen in bodies of fresh water, such as lakes, ponds and reservoirs. In Bulgaria, the White-headed Duck is a rare migratory or wintering species. There isn’t any evidence of preserved nesting species in bogs or lakes elsewhere in the country. Some of the ponds provide ideal conditions for the species in the colder months of the year.
It often dives in search of food and its head can be seen  floating on the water surface  It has a varied diet, predominantly vegetation (aquatic plants, seeds and algae), but it can also feed on molluscs, crustaceans and larvae. It prefers to eat at dawn and/or dusk.



Numbers in Bulgaria:
The White-headed Duck is seen only in the winter and during migration. During the winter, between 40 and 950 ducks can be observed at Burgas Lakes and particularly Vaya Lake from October to March. In the last ten years, the higher count was 2 000 birds at the latter during migration season.  The numbers of the subpopulation that occupies Bulgaria are estimated to be between 5 000 and 10 000 birds, with the current trend being a decrease in numbers; worldwide, it is likely that the total population does not exceed 13 100.

Nature conservation status:
Currently, the White-headed Duck is one of the most endangered species in the world. It’s classified as endangered by the IUCN Red List, but their numbers have decreased at a faster pace than expected. The most serious threat is the destruction of its natural habitat –including nesting materials and where they spend their winter months. In Bulgaria, it is also a victim of poachers because of its interesting, mysterious and beautiful looks.

Favorite hobby:
Swimming and diving. It stays for long periods of time underwater and when it emerges again, it is far from its initial diving point.  The White-headed Duck is very skilful in the water. It goes very rarely on land as it feels insecure and moves awkwardly.