Interesting Facts About Madagascar Pochard: World’s Rarest Bird

Madagascar Pochard

Madagascar Pochard

The Madagascan pochard or Madagascar Pochard has an unfortunate distinction of being the world’s rarest duck species. The Madagascar pochard is a very rare diving duck of the genus Aythya. As of March 2013, the population is about 80 individuals. Thought to be extinct in the late ’90s, specimens of the species were rediscovered at Lake Matsaborimena in Madagascar in 2006.
The Madagascar Pochard probably began to decline dramatically sometime in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Based on the accounts that Webb and Delacour’s wrote in the 1920s and 1930s, it seemed that these ducks were still relatively common at Lake Alaotra.
Cattle grazing on the shores, rice cultivation, burning of shore vegetation, gill-net fishing, introduced mammals (rats), and hunting are critical factors that led to the disappearance of the duck from the lake. The introduction of several fish species in the lake that damaged nesting sites and killed most of the pochard chicks also caused the decline. Adult birds are also likely to have become victims of the introduced fishes.
Despite the rarity of this duck species in 1960, a male was shot, and the Zoological Museum Amsterdam now holds the specimen. The last record of many birds at Lake Alaotra was from 9 June 1960 when a small flock of nearly twenty birds was spotted on the lake. There is a very dubious report of a sighting made outside Antananarivo in 1970.
Let’s now look at some little-known, interesting facts about Madagascan Pochard. Enjoy!
1. Publicity campaigns and intensive searches in 1989–1990, 1993–1994 and 2000–2001 did not produce any more records of Madagascan Pochard. Before this bird was rediscovered in 2006, the last confirmed sighting of this bird was at Lake Alaotra on Central Plateau of Madagascar in 1991. The only male then found was captured and kept in Antananarivo Botanical Gardens until it died one year later.
2. Ducks feed on pupae and larvae usually found under rocks, plant material, aquatic animals, small fish, crabs, snails, and seeds. Madagascar Pochard’s staple diet consists of aquatic plants with some small fish, aquatic insects, and mollusks. They feed by dabbling or diving – and often at night. They’ll upend for food and the more characteristic diving.
3. Only twenty-five adult birds had been counted in the wild as of 2008. Madagascar Pochard was placed in the new “Possibly Extinct” category in the 2006 IUCN Red List. Its previous status of Critically Endangered was restored in the 2007 issue following the rediscovery. In November 2006, a flock of four recently hatched ducklings and nine adults were discovered at Lake Matsaborimena, in the remote area of northern Madagascar.
4. The site of Madagascar pochard’s rediscovery is less well vegetated, but the vegetation that grows around the lake edge may offer a suitable nesting habitat. Also, an absence of fish and lack of human disturbance are thought to have aided the survival of the species at the site. This duck species is believed to have initially inhabited shallow freshwater lakes and marshes with areas of open water and nearby regions of dense vegetation.
5. In Autumn 2017 the population of Madagascan Pochard reached 90, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust are now ready to start the reintroduction process at a suitable lake in Madagascar, Lake Sofia.
In 2009, a rescue plan involving the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust obtained a batch of ready-to-hatch eggs from the lake-side nest and incubated them in a lab, which they set up in a tent beside the lake. They took the day-old chicks to a holding facility in a local hotel after hatching. Reared in captivity, they hatched 18 ducklings in April 2012 at the captive breeding center in Antsohihy, bringing the total population to 60. The population reached 80 in April 2013.
6. Outside the breeding season, the males are duller and browner, while the females are duller brown than the males, and lacks white eye. The young Madagascar pochard resembles the female. But it’s paler brown and lacks a chestnut tone.

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