Red-crested Pochards

The Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina) is a large diving duck.

Distribution / Range

Their breeding habitat is lowland marshes and lakes in southern Europe and southern and central Asia.

They are somewhat migratory, and northern birds winter further south and into north Africa.

Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina) - Male

The birds’ status in the British Isles is much confused due to the fact that there have been many escapes and deliberate releases over the years, as well as natural visitors from the continent. However, it is most likely that they are escapees that are now breeding wild and have built up a successful feral population.

They are most numerous around areas of England including Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire. Wild birds occasionally turn up at places such as Abberton Reservoir, Essex.

These are gregarious birds, forming large flocks in winter, often mixed with other diving ducks, such as other pochards.

Red-crested Pochard Male
Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina) - Sleeping Male

Diet / Feeding

They feed mainly by diving or dabbling. They eat aquatic plants, and typically upend for food more than most diving ducks.


The adult male is unmistakable. It has a rounded orange head, red bill and black breast. The flanks are white, the back brown, and the tail black.

The female is mainly a pale brown, with a darker back and crown and a whitish face.

Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina) - Pair (Female left / Male right)
Red-crested Pochard

Nesting / Breeding

Red-crested pochards build a nest by the lakeside among vegetation and lay 8-12 pale green eggs.


The Red-crested Pochard is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

More Duck Resources

Red-crested Pochard female with chicks
Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina) - Male

Red-crested Pochard

Diet / Feeding:

Red-crested pochards usually feed by diving or dabbling. Their diet consists of aquatic plants, and they typically upend for food more than most diving ducks.

Ducks generally feed on larvae and pupae usually found under rocks, aquatic animals, plant material, seeds, small fish, snails and crabs.

Feeding Ducks …

We all enjoy ducks and many of us offer them food to encourage them to come over and stay around – and it works! Who doesn’t like an easy meal!

However, the foods that we traditionally feed them at local ponds are utterly unsuitable for them and are likely to cause health problems down the road. Also, there may be local laws against feeding this species of bird – so it’s best to check on that rather than facing consequences at a later stage.

Please note that feeding ducks and geese makes them dependent on humans for food, which can result in starvation and possibly death when those feedings stop. If you decide to feed them, please limit the quantity to make sure that they maintain their natural ability to forage for food themselves – providing, of course, that natural food sources are available.

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Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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