|Tufted Duck (adult male, breeding plumage)|
|Tufted Duck (female)|
So anyway, what's the big deal about Tufted Duck and what's so interesting about it's history in Newfoundland? In looking at eBird data for Tufted Duck the first report for the species in Newfoundland was in October, 1986. Now it's entirely possible that that there are earlier records (and there probably are), but they would have been singles here and there, they were a legitimate rarity.
Starting somewhere in the early 2000's Tufted Duck numbers in Newfoundland began to increase dramatically. The chart below, which displays the high count for Tufted Duck in St.John's between the years 2000-2018 shows the explosion in their numbers. Our Tufted Ducks usually begin to arrive in early October and numbers build over the fall, usually peaking in early winter. The numbers then remain stable until May when there is a drastic decrease.
|We used to be happy if we had a handful of overwintering TUDU's. Then one year we had a dozen, then 20, then 50. The all time high was 84 this year. How much higher can it go?|
The working assumption is our Tufted Ducks come from Iceland, where they breed, then migrate to Newfoundland to winter, then returning back to Iceland in Spring. That seems strange because why wouldn't they just stay and breed in Newfoundland? There is plenty of appropriate habitat and the very similar Ring-necked Duck does quite well here. However, the instinct to migrate is very strong and likely strong enough to cause they birds to make the long trip back to Iceland each Spring. Having said all of that, there is some suspicion that a few may be sticking around to breed, since we have been seeing the odd Tufted Duck X Ring-necked Duck and even some suspicious looking Tufted Duck X Scaup hybrids. It may be just a matter of time before we get our first breeding record of Tufted Duck in Newfoundland.
|Tufted DuckX Ring-necked Duck|
Note the grayish wash on the flank, which is typical of RNDU, versus the pure white flanks of TUDU. Also note the partial tuft, which of course is absent in RNGU